And/or

Standard

Frequently used by people (and lawyers) who can’t be bothered to learn the difference between “and” and “or,” “and/or” is unacceptable. It is a way to avoid the harder job of actually thinking through the meaning of the sentence. Seriously, put on your grown-up pants and figure out if the statement logically requires “and” or “or”. See what I did there?

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One thought on “And/or

  1. The problem lies in the ambiguity of the word “or,” whether it means OR or XOR. And lawyers being lawyers, somebody is going to find a way to take advantage of that ambiguity, intentionally or inadvertently. If I ask, “Do you want pasta or pizza,” most English speakers will interpret that as “either-or.” And if I state: “Admit that you own dogs, cats, or rabbits,” some clever/juvenile lawyer is going to deny it, on the grounds that he has dogs *and* cats, and that “or” means “exclusive or.”

    But, the funny part is, it’s not clear whether “and/or” actually does *anything* here. What does “and/or” even mean? If it means, “read this sentence twice — once with ‘and’ and once with ‘or,'” then the XOR problem is not solved when you have more than two elements. “A and/or B” clearly = {A}, {B}, and {AB}. But under an XOR reading, “A, B, and/or C” = {A}, {B}, {C}, and {ABC}, but NOT {AB}, {AC}, or {BC}. So you haven’t solved the problem.

    What people really want “and/or” to mean is “or both” or “any combination of the above.” Do you want pasta, pizza, or both? Admit that you own dogs, cats, rabbits, or any combination of them. This is a much more precise way of doing things, and it omits the unsightly virgule.

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