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This is too many words, I would like to leave

Read time
3 mins

The Amazing Ampersand


Ampersands are the little symbol used in the place of the word and, but why do we use them and where do they come from?

We’re so convinced that ampersands are great that we’ve even got one in the middle of our logo. No drearily dull ‘and co’ for us. We’re no schmucks.

Many people will recognise the ampersand symbol but weren’t even aware that it had a name, simple fools. The short story is that the ampersand symbol is simply a ligature for example of the word ‘et’, which is latin for ‘and’. If you look closely at an ampersand you should be able to make out the ‘e’ and ‘t’ letters joined. With some, you have to really want to see those letters though.

Evolution of the ampersand. Figures 1 through 6


Wait, what’s a ligature?

A ligature, for those not au fait with handwriting letters to their Edwardian correspondences, is a way to link two letters together with a flourish. When you have two letters that are often placed together they can be grouped into one graphic form this is called a glyph.


Wait, what’s a glyph?

In geography and geology, a glyph is a vertical, or nearly vertical, rock exposure that sea-going birds like to nest on. I’m hilarious. Actually, a glyph is a posh word for a symbol and in this case a typographic symbol.


Where does the word ampersand come from then smart arse?

The word ampersand is derived from the phrase we all use everyday… “and per se and” which in layman’s terms means “and by itself and”. ‘Karen can you pass the salt and by itself and the pepper”. The Latins were complete idiots.

In the early days of the ampersand it often appeared as the 27th letter of the alphabet, which completely ruins the meter of the alphabet song and don’t get me started on how hard alphabet soup would be to make.


Why even bother using an ampersand?

For designers, ampersands are mostly used for style purposes. They are rarely used in body copy unless within a list to denote an ‘and’ that is part of the item’s name and not a separator. But they can be interchanged with ‘and’ regardless of how the original ‘and’ is used.


Writing an ampersand

Writing an ampersand is basically witchcraft. You have to invite dark spirits to inhabit your soul and let them take your pen for a walk. Alternatively, you can draw a backward 3 and stick a vertical line through it.


Did you manage to write a blog post about ampersands and not type a single ampersand?

Yes I did. I am brilliant.