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“And / or” is a perfectly acceptable shorthand for the inclusive or, thank you very much

Ken Adams reports on a couple of judicial screeds against the term and/or. The learned judges in question would hold that the proper term is X or Y or both, not X and/or Y. In the words of one judge, and/or is the refuge of “the lazy, the ignorant, and the harried …” The other judge scolded that and/or “is an indolent way to express a series of items that might exist in the conjunctive, but might also exist in the disjunctive.”

The second judge (no slave to brevity) continued, “the drafter could express a series of items as, ‘A, B, C, and D together, or any combination together, or any one of them alone.'” Um, sure.

Count me in the camp of those who insist that snd/or is a perfectly fine shorthand, thank you very much. I suspect, but couldn’t prove, that it’s universally and correctly understood.* Language was made for man, not man for language.

In computer engineering and-programming, the term XOR has long been used as a shorthand to make it clear the writer means exclusive-or, as in X or Y but not both,. Given the wide acceptance of and/or as meaning the inclusive or, there’s no reason lawyers and laypeople shouldn’t likewise use it to be clear about their intent.

(The term and/or isn’t used in computer engineering or -programming, because the simple or is already accepted as inclusive. )

* Ken also warns, as does UT Law School legal-writing prof Wayne Scheiss in his comment, against using and/or in contexts where it’s substantively wrong.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Thomas Bowden 2010-04-07, 2:21 pm

    I remember completing my application to a certain New England undergraduate university wherein the question was presented “Bearing in mind that ‘brevity is the soul of wit’ what makes you so darn special? (or words to that effect).”

    Apparently the judges quoted above were a humorless lot, and/or were not admitted and/or did not apply to that particular hallowed institution.

    Perhaps they cut their teeth in some firm where quantity (be it hours, pages, words, whatever) was the soul of success.

    In the 50s, IBM measured the output of its programmers in “k-locs” (being proto-geek for Kilo-Lines Of Code). No wonder their mainframes were so big!

    But there is no doubt that ambiguity is directly proportional to verbosity, or as the math majors would say: Ao(V. (OMG ROFL! that’s so short it’s hilarious!!)

    According to Einstein “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” Wish I’d said that.

    So, for the avoidance of doubt, in the event that, from time to time or anytime, one or more of the readers of this excellent blog, jointly, severally or jointly and severally, directly or indirectly or as agent for any of them (hereinafter collectively referred to as “readers” or individually as a “reader”), should have occasion to make a decision between the use of the expression and/or, on the one hand, or some longer but purportedly equivalent construction, on the other hand, kindly opt for brevity, and/or precision. That is unless you get paid by the word.

  • Thomas Bowden 2010-04-07, 3:36 pm

    DC, what’s is/are your thought(s) on (s)?