Would you use “&” or “and” in company names?

I write for some clients that specialize in branding. Occasionally, that means I get to weigh in on decisions about a new company name, or even the titles assigned to departments and department staff.

Today, a classic question came up. Should we use “&” or “and” between two words.

Not surprisingly, the designer favoured the “&” but the client favoured “and” so who’s right?

I can’t get into the specifics since the brand has yet to be launched but I can share what I contributed to the conversation.

Using “&” in proper nouns (for example names of businesses) is common and acceptable. Just think of Johnson & Johnson, Arm & Hammer, Grand & Toy or Palmer & Sons.

Typically, if you are trying to express that two people (or two things) are working together, or are inseparable, then you use the “&”. It’s common to see it used by companies that are named after multiple partners.

If you actually need a conjunction you would  use “and.” Let me know if you can think a major company that uses “and” in its name. I couldn’t, so I ended up checking Businessweek’s List of Public Companies and found a few like this Aarya Global Shares and Securities Limited, where the “and” is used to connect things in a list: shares and securities. Those are two products they sell, but they don’t necessarily go together.

It’s more common to see “and” in association and union names. For example, Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada likely uses the conjunction “and” in the list because although the various workers may belong to the same union and band together for support, the people don’t actually work together as an “&” might suggest.

Interestingly, AT&T made a choice to streamline their name with the “&” when they rebranded from the old school American Telephone and Telegraph Company. They didn’t have to. Lots of organizations drop the “and” all together when they create an acronym. Communications, Energy and Paperworkers Union of Canada goes by CEP. It’s their choice.

So yes, there is a grammatical argument to be made for choosing “&” or “and” but ultimately the brand can establish its own rules for a company’s name.

When it comes to naming departments or creating titles for staff within the departments, again companies have choices. Sure, you can follow the grammar rules, and you certainly should follow your brand rules, but there are other things to consider.

1) Business cards are only so big and sometimes using one character for “&” instead of three characters can actually lighten the load. (I don’t think this is a great argument but I’ve heard people use it.)

2) People get very touchy about their titles. If you assign a grammatically questionable title to a grammar geek you have a recipe for complaints and non-compliance.

3) Somethings just don’t look right. Listen to your designer (or visually sensitive writer). If they say people’s eyes will trip, you need to try a different approach.

The final word on job titles goes to “&” user Ben & Jerry.  According to CNN:

“the U.S. ice cream firm, lets its staff choose their own [title], with the consequence that it now employs the “Grand Poobah of the Joy Gang” and the “Primal Ice Cream Therapist.”

Sometimes fun is as good a reason as any to pick one solution over another.

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