Are there rules of usage when using the ampersand "&" instead of "and"?

Are they completely interchangeable?

The ampersand seems more casual, but I'm not sure.

  • 2
    clientsfromhell.net/post/1116394387/… I think that this joke is suitable here
    – zerkms
    Commented Sep 17, 2010 at 2:27
  • 1
    The header of this english stack exchange community uses it, "English Language & Usage", probably as stylish decorative purposes (as for the writing of this comment).
    – edmundo096
    Commented Feb 17, 2019 at 1:08

4 Answers 4


There are very, very few acceptable uses of & in proper written English. Here are some of them:

& is especially common when joining names to indicate a firm or a partnership, for example, a law firm:

Baker & McKenzie
Abercrombie & Fitch
Crosby Stills Nash & Young

In abbreviations, when abbreviating "and", & is often used:

AT&T (American Telephone and Telegraph)
P&L (profit and loss)
R&D (research and development)

One rare usage is on envelopes addressed to a couple:

Mr. & Mrs. Jackson

&c. is a rare and somewhat archaic looking abbreviation for etc.

Other than that it is vanishingly rare to see & in formal written English, although of course in informal email, text messages, notes, and handwriting, anything goes.

  • 1
    You missed one very important usage. In the title 'English language and usage' ;-)
    – Niranjan
    Commented Mar 29, 2023 at 3:32

Are there rules of usage when using the ampersand "&" instead of "and"?

I looked through a couple of reference books and both of them said that the ampersand should only be used in company names.

Are they completely interchangeable?

Meaning-wise I think they are.

The ampersand seems more casual, but I'm not sure.

It's an abbreviation so one might use it more in less formal writing.


I cannot say this is correct but in use I find it very useful.

I often use "&" when two things are related directly but only in a series. Example: "Michel has experience in Marketing, Research & Design, and Business Management."

Like I said, this most likely isn't correct but it makes sense, seems useful, and if enough people agree then we can change the rules & regulations.

  • 2
    Great example of a good place to use it. It could be argued that the department name is in fact "Research & Design" or R&D. It's a proper noun, so the usual rules don't apply anyhow.
    – OneProton
    Commented Aug 4, 2017 at 19:16
  • 1
    If we do eventually extend the guidance to more informal conditions like "agriculture, hunting & fishing" based on common usage, we might consider the style rule that it should not appear next to other punctuation, like "this, that, & the other" or "this &/or that" ...none of which is considered appropriate in the present set of rules.
    – CZahrobsky
    Commented Jun 11, 2018 at 17:31

The ampersand is used inside brackets when referencing (Smith & Jones, 2008:36). But in a sentence, "and" is used, e.g. "Smith and Jones (2008:36) hold that..."

Also, & is used in the reference list of an academic paper when more than one author is cited. But not in the title, then "and" is used.

  • 2
    It will depend on the style guide. Which manual is this rule from?
    – choster
    Commented Nov 19, 2013 at 18:37

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.