Ampersands: Avoiding Affectations for the Betterment of Your Book

readers against one other writers’ affectation similar to the ones already in that book (and in the first edition).That is overuse of ampersands. They are all affectations that keep literary agents, publishers and others in the publishing industry from taking you seriously. So here is an excerpt from that book and a little freebie balm to make those who love the looks of ampersands as much as I do.

The ampersand is a real pretty little dude, but it isn’t a letter nor even a word. It’s a logogram that represents a word. Its history goes back to classical antiquity, but interesting history and being cute are no reason to overuse it in the interest of trying to separate one’s writing from the pack. Better writers should concentrate on the techniques that make a difference rather than gimmicks that distract. Here are some legitimate uses and not-so-desirable uses for the ampersand.
  • The Writers Guild of America uses the ampersand to indicate a closer collaboration than and, in other words, to indicate a closer partnership rather than a situation in which one writer is brought in to rewrite or fix the screenplay of another. For those in the know it is a convenient way to subtly indicate that one writer has not been brought in to rewrite of fix the work of another.
  • Newspapers, journals, and others choose to use it when they are citing sources. That’s their style choice, not a grammar rule.
  • In similar citations, academia asks that the word and be spelled out.
  • Occasionally the term etc. is abbreviated to &c, though I can see no reason for confusing a reader with this. Etc. is already an abbreviation of et cetera and the ampersand version saves but one letter and isn’t commonly recognized.
  • Ampersands are sometimes used instead of the conjunction to which we’ve become accustomed when the and is part of a name or when naming a series of items, though here, too, it feels like a stretch and more confusing than helpful. Wikipedia gives this example: “Rock, pop, rhythm & blues and hip hop” as an acceptable use. But it, too, is an unnecessary affectation when we could clarify our intent with the traditional serial comma like this: “Rock, pop, rhythm and blues, and hip hop.”
For a little style guide from the point of view of academia go to https://owl.english.purdue.edu/owl/resource/560/03/. To see a graphic artist’s creative use of the ampersand, one based on the authenticity of its simply being visually attractive, go to http://amperart.com. Chaz DeSimone, the cover artist for my Frugal Editor and Frugal Book Promoter, offers you a poster featuring ampersands every month with a subscription to his monthly letter which is also free.

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 Carolyn Howard-Johnson edits, consults. and speaks on issues of publishing. Find her The Frugal Editor: Put Your Best Book Forward to Avoid Humiliation and Ensure Success (How To Do It Frugally series of book for writers). Learn more about her other authors' aids at www.howtodoitfrugally.com/writers_books.htm , where writers will find lists and other helps including Great Little Last-Minute Editing Tips on the Resources for Writers page. She blogs on all things publishing (not just editing!) at her Sharing with Writers blog. She tweets writers' resources at www.twitter.com/frugalbookpromo . Please tweet this post to your followers. We all need a little help with editing. (-:

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