A colleague of mine—an expert online editor and web content manager—sent me this e-mail last week:
Can you give me some style guidance or a citation that says “using ‘and/or’ in a sentence is just plain dumb"? I was editing some web pages and ran across this construction at least four times. I wanted to tell the writer to NEVER do this again but wanted some source material. I struggle to keep our pages from sounding too “researchery” or “lawyery” and, given where I work, that’s tough.
Always interested in being helpful, and in stamping out anything that's just plain dumb, I did some quick research online to see if style guides or other editorial experts also dislike and/or. Here's what I found:
- The Writing Styleguide and Dictionary of Plain English, published by Duncan Kent & Associates, advises writers to avoid using and/or where either and or or will do.
- The UC Berkeley iNews Style Guide tells writers to avoid the slash, avoid and/or, and to just use or.
- The American Chemical Society's Style Guide places and/or in Chapter 1 under the heading "Words and Phrases To Avoid," stating that writers should replace and/or with either and or or, depending on their meaning.
- In the American Anthropological Association's Style Guide, the and/or advice is simple: "never use." And leave it to anthropologists to put the advice in a chapter titled "Orthography."
- The APA Research Style Crib Sheet doesn't waffle either: "Do not use and/or."
So the verdict is in: and/or is JPD (just plain dumb). Do you agree? Comment here or e-mail me with your opinion.
-- Leslie O'Flahavan