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 Red Hat Style Guide says, “Avoid if possible. Try to rewrite to make the available options explicit and clear.”
- American University’s Style & Usage guide says to avoid “and/or.”
- The American Bar Association Journal says “and/or” is one of those legal terms you should ax from your writing. They advise writers to “kill it.”
- Slaw, Canada’s online legal magazine, calls “and/or” an abomination and says not to use it in legal writing.
- The Guide to Style and Usage of the US Congressional Budget Office says, “This usage is awkward and sounds too bureaucratic …”
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