RE: And Or situations

Subject: RE: And Or situations
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: Lauren <lauren -at- writeco -dot- net>, TECHWR-L Writing <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Tue, 22 Oct 2013 16:58:30 -0400

There was an editorial style guide for the General Style Guide, that said:

- if you use a construction 10 times or more in the Guide, make a rule... and mostly stick to it.

Looks like "and/or" didn't reach the threshold.

OK, I made that up.

I happen to like "and/or" when I want a compact way to say, "Use one or the other, or use both" in the middle of a sentence (like an instruction step) where extra words get in the way.

To a previous poster, if I intended to also express ".... or neither", I might say "either/both/neither"... but I have yet to encounter a place where that was needed in my docs.

As for AP and Reuters... do they matter?
The guides were intended for use by print journalists, and if the evidence of the past couple of decades is any indication, serial commas and and/ors are the least of the editorial problems at most newspapers. The biggest problem seems to be a complete lack of budget or interest in copy editing or proof reading. Fact-checking is not far behind on the descent into the rat-hole.

I bet, if there are any decent news-readers left, they insist on serial commas on the teleprompter, for what should be obvious reasons. But I have no way to verify that hunch.

-----Original Message-----
From: Lauren
Sent: October-22-13 4:39 PM
To: TECHWR-L Writing
Subject: Re: And Or situations

On 10/22/2013 12:34 PM, Robert Lauriston wrote:
> Huh? The serial comma is good style everywhere.

I agree but is a regular point of controversy and an entertaining source of irony for me.

> "Among those interviewed were [Merle Haggard's] two ex-wives, Kris
> Kristofferson and Robert Duvall."

The Reuters General Style Guide prefers no serial comma. Their online handbook (http://handbook.reuters.com/) is giving 504 errors but states, "Use commas to separate items in a list, e.g. cheese, fruit, wine and coffee or Smith despised ballet, hated the theatre and was bored by opera. Note that there is normally no comma before the final and.
However, a comma should be used in this position if to leave it out would risk ambiguity, e.g. He admired Irving Berlin, Rodgers and Hart, and Leonard Bernstein."

That's nice and inconsistent.

Ironies being what they are, Thompson-Reuters owns FindLaw, an online repository of case law and other legal documents. FindLaw provides helpful guides for preparing legal documents. On the comma, one document states, "DO consider the placement of punctuation marks, since even a misplaced comma can change the meaning of a sentence."
http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/business-contracts-forms/do-s-and-don-ts-contracts-terms-article.html

I think that when a rule of writing is clear in one context but can produce vagueness in another context, then the rule is vague and should not be used. The use of two rules, like what Reuters suggests for commas, is inconsistent and not a "rule."

Both the serial comma and the "and/or" conundrum give rise to inconsistent rules of writing that placate writers who are unable to write clearly without using crutches like confusing slashes and random commas.

In what looks like nuisance writing, the Reuters style guide uses "and/or" nine times and makes no mention of an "and/or" rule.


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Follow-Ups:

References:
And Or situations: From: Cardimon, Craig
Re: And Or situations: From: Gene Kim-Eng
Re: And Or situations: From: Milan Davidović
Re: And Or situations: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: And Or situations: From: Lauren
Re: And Or situations: From: Robert Lauriston
Re: And Or situations: From: Lauren

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