Let’s Eliminate ‘And/Or’ Forever

Good policies are written clearly. Clear writing never contains the portmanteau ‘and/or.’

‘And/or’ is the poster child for unclear meaning.

It’s self-contradictory. It’s like writing ‘with/without’ in the following sentence:

I’d like my sandwich with/without fries.

If you, the writer, can’t decide whether a policy statement should say ‘and’ or ‘or,’ then how can you possibly expect the reader to make the choice?

The rules around usage are really quite simple.

‘And’ means ‘both—or all—are required,’ e.g.,

Company vehicles are painted red, green, and blue. 

‘Or’ means ‘only one is required,’ e.g,

Company vehicles are painted red, green or blue. 

If you want to provide people with alternatives along with the option to combine them, then do just that, as in the following examples:

Company vehicles are painted green, blue, or both. 

Company vehicles are painted red, green, or blue, or any combination of those colours

Company vehicles are painted red, green, or blue, or any combination thereof.

Company vehicles are painted with one or more of the following: red, green, and blue.

Using ‘and/or’ in your writing just opens up a Pand/ora’s box of opportunities for misunderstanding.


More Policy Writing Tips

For more information

You’ll find information on writing titles for policy instruments and many related topics in Respectful Policies and Directives, available at any bookstore.

Perfect Policies.org offers workshops that help you organize your policy instruments. Contact us for details.


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