May 6, 2013 AndreLuisSantos

Typo Tuesday: Ampersands &

The ampersand is one of the most unique typographical characters out there.

What is an Ampersand?

An ampersand is a logogram representing the conjunction word “and”. The ampersand can be traced back to the first century AD. It was originally a ligature of the letters E and T. This is because the E and T are Latin for and. If you look at the modern ampersand, you’ll likely still be able to see the E and T separately. One of the first examples of an ampersand appears on a piece of papyrus from about 45 A.D. Written in the style of early Roman capital cursive (typical of the handwriting of the time), it shows the ligature ET. In Russian the word ampersand is only recognized by Lopatin’s Russian Spelling Dictionary. Finding any mention of the sign in the pre-computer era literature is nearly impossible, because the use of ampersand in Cyrillic typesetting was very scant.


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The word “ampersand” was first added to dictionaries in 1837. The word was created as a slurred form of “and, per se and”. Also, it was common practice to add at the end of the alphabet the “&” sign as if it were the 27th letter, pronounced and.The ampersand is a part of every roman font. It’s used in modern text often, probably most frequently in the names of corporations and other businesses, or in other formal title, such as law firms with two people (like goldstein & goldstien law firm).

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Ampersands in design

Ampersands have become a bit of an obsession for some, seeing as it is the hipsteresque thing to love. There are blogs that focus on ampersands (some within larger typography blogs, others focusing solely on the ampersand). There are t-shirts. And there are a surprising number of people out there who have ampersand tattoos. A notable YouTube vlogger, Karen Kavett sells ampersands necklaces which can be found (here).

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Whether for a web project or a print design, ampersands can add an interesting element to your designs.. When used in titles or headers they can add some extra graphic impact without images. Italic ampersands, which are generally formal and fancy, can add extra elegance to a design that otherwise remains minimal. Carolignian ampersands in a sans-serif font are often bolder and have a modern feeling.

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