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If I want to abbreviate a statement of the form

We consider a model with X and a model without X

I am not sure if

We consider models with and without X

and

We consider models with or without X

have the same meaning? Is one preferred over the other?

I would expect that "and" is correct, because it is the same "and" as in the original sentence. However, "and" may confuse readers because "with and without" is not possible for a given model. Should I avoid the construction completely?

PS:

The actual statement I am considering is

[...] there is very little difference between results obtained with and/or without a Rashba coupling.

2 Answers 2

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You're probably familiar with the difference between and & or.

conjunction: and
1. used to connect words of the same part of speech, clauses, or sentences that are to be taken jointly.

"Taken jointly" applied to your situation means both are considered.

conjunction: or
1. used to link alternatives.

"Alternatives" mean only one or the other is considered.

We consider models with and without X.

"And" implies that you considered at least two types of models, those with X and those without. The grammatical expansion would be:

We consider models with X and models without X.

This is the clearer of the two choices, in my opinion.

We consider models with or without X.

"Or" could be interpreted in several ways. It could mean that you considered some models with X and some without. It could mean you considered one class of models that were ambiguous in their inclusion of X. The most straightforward grammatical expansion is:

We consider models with X or models without X.

Which implies there is a choice to be made between what types of models you consider. Without an explanation of which type of model you chose to consider, this could be confusing.

As to your final example, I think it is more flexible. Using and clearly indicates that both models were considered. Using or is less ambiguous since the past tense makes it clear that the two types of models are alternatives and results have been obtained from both.

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First of all, no indefinite article with proper names - a Rashba

... there is very little difference between results obtained with and without Rashba coupling.

Here and means that you have two types of results, one obtained with the coupling, the other - without it.

if you say

... there is very little difference between results obtained with or without Rashba coupling.

it would mean that all the results were obtained the same way, either considering the coupling, or not.

But there is a bigger problem with the whole sentence. First of all, Rashba coupling, or Rashba effect, is a physical phenomenon, and you cannot obtain something with that effect, you can obtain something taking into account/considering that effect. Or otherwise you can say

Using the expression/equation for Rashba effect ...

Finally, I would stick to the following sentence to express what you meant to:

The consideration of Rashba effect introduces a very small difference between the results.

or, if you still want to go with your initial structure:

There is a very small difference between the results obtained with and without consideration of Rashba coupling.

Note again, that Rashba coupling cannot change your results, it is a model/phenomenon that always exists, the only difference is that you either take it into account or do not.

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  • Thanks. Regarding the article in front of Rashba: my gut feeling was always that it is not necessary, but I have been told otherwise by journal editors several times. Oct 16, 2014 at 17:01

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