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Monday, November 13, 2006

A Matter of Style

Over the weekend I enjoyed reading a boy’s writing.

He planned his work confidently and wrote a rather sensible three paragraphs - just what was asked for.

One aspect of his work stood out. He used an ampersand. The ampersand (&) has been used for at least two thousand years. Why should this symbol stand out on a page - and why not use it in some types of written work?

The origins of the term are shrouded in history. Some writers think that it was Tiro who used a form of shorthand to write down Cicero’s speeches.

Today the ampersand is used in around two hundred different languages. If there is the universal adoption of the term, why should it usage be restricted?

Should the boy lose marks? Should it be commented on?

We know that an ampersand can be used in a headlines like: `Books & The Eleven Plus‘.
It can be used in a official name of a company: `White & White’.

The ampersand should not be used in the text of a passage. `The boy took his sword & his helmet off,’ is simply not acceptable.

We know that 2 + 2 makes 4. A fact. The use of an ampersand, however, is a matter of style. If `style’ is worth 5 marks, how many marks should be deducted for an unruly `ampersand’?

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