And/Or No More: A Stylistic Consideration
Sometimes there are minor issues that crop up in papers that, while they don’t ruin a student’s academic writing, are still worth remarking upon in a blog post like this. Today I will talk about a small issue I see as I work with Walden University students in Paper Review Appointments: the use of the forward slash between conjunctions “and” and “or,” like this: “and/or.”
This term is meant only to pop up in sentences rarely, in situations where either options in a sentence or both options are simultaneously possible. That means, in order to use it in a sentence, both the “and” and “or” must make sense by themselves in a sentence.
This is where students get tripped up. Here is a sentence where it does not work:
“This paper will explore the effect of teacher evaluations on student grades and/or test scores.”
Why does this not work? In order to use “and/or,” you would want to make sure that “and” by itself and “or” by itself both work in the sentence. First, the conjunction “and” works because you are talking about two separate factors, and you plan to focus on both of them in the paper. The word “or” does not work so well—you are not working on one or the other, right? You are looking at both. Therefore, “and/or” does not work here and should be revised for better clarity.
Even in those situations where “and/or” does work grammatically, instructors and editors here at the Writing Center strongly encourage you to express yourself another way, without that term. And we are not the only ones. Many of our favorite resources for academic writing style advise writers to avoid a forward slash between words. The APA Sixth edition manual tells readers “not to use a slash when a phrase would be clearer.” And blogger Grammar Girl reaffirms, “you’d be hard-pressed to find a style guide that doesn’t admonish you to drop and/or and rewrite the sentence with just and or just or.” It may sound smart in your writing sometimes, but chances are, editors and proofreaders don’t like it so much.
Nathan Sacks is a writing instructor in the the Walden University Writing Center. He also enjoys writing books, playing guitar, and playing with cats.
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