Why you shouldn’t use &

I’ll be the first to admit that the ampersand (that familiar little “&” mark) can be handy now and then. But it’s one of the most-misused tools in the punctuation toolbox.

The ampersand is a graphic replacement for the word “and.” Used properly in graphic design, it can even be a thing of beauty — much prettier than those three letters it replaces. Designers will twist and turn ampersands, run words through and around them, or present them in different colors and typefaces.

That said, there is one place that ampersands absolutely do not belong, and that’s in body text. Whether you’re writing a blog post or a brochure, replacing the word “and” with an ampersand makes your hard work look amateurish. If you’re writing in full sentences — or even in fragments — please stick to “and” instead of ampersands.

As always, there’s an exception, and that’s when you’re including a title or name that normally incorporates an ampersand. If you were writing about that famous Boston legal practice … Dewey, Cheatem & Howe … the ampersand would be perfectly acceptable. Otherwise, keep it in your toolbox.