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January 25, 2010


Jenny Kutz

Wow, that's really interesting. It never occurred to me that "and/or" was just plain dumb. :) I'm surprised that so many sources advise against using it. It seems like there ARE instances where that is the only way to really convey your meaning. Say, for example, if you were requesting art submissions. You might say, "Send us your paintings and/or drawings." You wouldn't say just "and" because you don't require both, but you wouldn't say just "or" because you do want to see both. Know what I mean? Is there NO proper usage of and/or?

Leslie O'Flahavan

Hi, Jenny - I agree. It's a bit rigid to take a hard line against and/or. The "paintings and/or drawings" example you gave seems an appropriate use of and/or to me. But frequently, "and" or "or" will do.


In the example you cite, what is the meaning that you're trying to convey? It seems to me that "Send us your paintings or drawings, or both" IS what "and/or" is supposed to be conveying.

Or you could say "Send us your paintings. Send us your drawings." That seems to cover it as well.

Matt Schrandt

How about the following: Send us your paintings, drawings, or both. Done deal!

Greg Hoffman

I never liked the sound of “and/or”, but it seems to suit what I want to write or say often enough that I use it semi-regularly. My gut seems to agree with the sytle guides. I checked my copy of "The Elements of Style," and find this in the “Words and Expressions Commonly Misused” chapter:

And/or. A device, or shortcut, that damages a sentence and often leads to confusion or ambiguity.

[Instead of this:]
First of all, would an honor system successfully cut down on the amount of stealing and/or cheating?

[Try this:]
First of all, would an honor system reduce the incidence of stealing or cheating or both?

Thanks for the interesting post!

Leslie O'Flahavan

Thanks, all, for weighing in on the and/or matter. I am pleasantly surprised at the amount of discussion this issue generated and the attention this post received from the legal community. This "just plain dumb" post was reposted at Evan Schaeffer's "The Trial Practice Tips Weblog," Raymond Ward's "the (new) legal writer," and the "Stark County Law Library Weblog." Apparently,obfuscation is going out of style.


I have used this construction on occasion. But after reading this post and comments, I think I'll use it less often. The "or both" option might be the best way around it.

Ron Miller

I don't like and/or but I think "or both" is probably worse and take longer for the reader to process.

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