So I’ve seen the genre of music known as “rock and/or roll” spelled out as follows but have never been clear on what the accepted, proper, consistent way of doing so is:

  1. Rock and roll.
  2. Rock & roll.
  3. Rock 'n roll.
  4. Rock 'n' roll.
  5. Rock n roll.

In my experience the 3rd option is the most commonly used variant, but I have also seen the 4th option show up as well.

Is there any commonly used variant that is considered the definitive variant of “rock and roll?”

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  • 2
    The OED's headword is rock 'n' roll, which means that's the canonical spelling by their lights, but it also lists the alternative forms rock and roll, rock 'n' roll, rock 'n roll, rock n roll, rock & roll, also with capital initials, esp. in the first and third element, which means it takes those to be acceptable forms as well. But I'm not sure, in this case, that the OED gets the final word. The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame spells it out, eg. – Dan Bron Mar 25 '17 at 19:44
  • It's taken too long for the close-vote comment to appear. Readily available resources, such as Wikipedia and Wiktionary, give usage guidance here. Collins, ODO and CDO give fewer alternatives. – Edwin Ashworth Mar 25 '17 at 19:53
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    @EdwinAshworth I imagine the bigger question is who is the authority here? – Dan Bron Mar 25 '17 at 20:02
  • Related: english.stackexchange.com/questions/26752/… – user66974 Mar 25 '17 at 20:38
  • I would tend to go with "rock 'n roll". After all, the term is a term from youth culture and has been informal since its inception. "Rock 'n roll" catches that informality better than the other options. In a situation such as this it's probably not wise to rely on "authorities" such as OED. (And Ngram tends to be highly unreliable with punctuation, in addition to its "disconnection" from youth culture, so I have doubts as to its validity here.) – Hot Licks Mar 25 '17 at 21:37

If we take Google Books as a usage indicator, rock and roll and rock 'n' roll are by far the more common versions compared to all the others.

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The Grammarist appears to confirm that the two forms mentioned above are the more commonly used, pointing out that "rock and roll" is the more formal between the two:

  • Rock ‘n’ roll is the most common spelling for the genre of music, but rock-and-roll, rock and roll, rock-‘n’- roll, rock & roll, and rock’n’roll also appear often.
  • Rock ‘n’ roll has a breezy and colloquial look that reflects the spirit of the music, while rock-and-roll and rock and roll are a little more formal.

  • In any case, there is no right or wrong way to write the term, though rock ‘n’ roll is the most common version and hence the safest.

  • Nice find on the The Grammarist. +1 for you. – Dan Bron Mar 25 '17 at 20:10
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    Just looking at the first 1940-1971 page for "rock 'n' roll" I see several cases where "rock 'n roll" was included. I doubt that the above results have much validity. – Hot Licks Mar 25 '17 at 21:43
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    @HotLicks - I suggest you look at later results of rock 'n' roll. The 'n' version is clearly by far more common than the 'n one as clearly confirmed also by the Grammarist. – user66974 Mar 25 '17 at 22:16
  • My point is that the searching/selection is clearly inaccurate. We've seen this before. Unless you make an effort to examine a large sample of the individual "hits" (which is difficult when many are hidden), you have very little confidence that the counts are right. About all you can assume is that the "rock and roll" counts are reasonably accurate. – Hot Licks Mar 25 '17 at 23:08
  • Yes, it is rock and roll music… Any old way you choose it. – JakeGould Mar 25 '17 at 23:53

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