Doing what's right / Doing what works

As you well know, I've been spending a lot of time in the British Library recently. It's been a lot of fun, a gentle cuddle for my inner student. In the process, I've been writing a lot of notes - in pencil, mind! One of the beautiful things about the library is that they absolutely insist you don't use a pen in the reading rooms and moreover, people actually obey it because the library is geared to overawe you with the sheer weight of knowledge in the place.

That's quite the digression. A little philosophy and it could've been a Comstock. The point is that in the course of my note-writing, I came to the conclusion that going through all three letters of a-n-d is a massive pain, especially when you research a subject that actually includes lists.

So, naturally, symbolism stepped into the breach. Here's where the mundane dilemma lies:

The blighter on the left is an ampersand. Shift-7 will get you one, thus: &. It's the official symbol of and-ness. Most people know of it, a smaller proportion know how to draw it, and then there's a tiny number that actually do. To start with, I thought I'd be one of them... but look at that thing. It's shite! Typographers are foaming at the mouth. Now, there's no way I'm doing one of those retarded 'e' things, a single loop that just looks like nothing.
Instead, I soon switched to the chap on the right, something I'd seen a few art directors do. It's much easier, and it looks like I've done it with less effort which is also true. People who know something about motor skills might know about this, but I'm guessing that it uses more natural hand movements; two simple curves, and a line.

It's wrong. But it works.

As is starting a sentence with 'but', like I did above, and like the DM I receive every day does. In both cases, it's to create a 'natural' feel. The 'but' is conversation, the backwards-e-with-a-line is more reminiscent of well-used characters. They're not right, but they work. Where does that leave someone like me. Someone who, well, gets a huge kick out of being right?

I guess it's just not natural to be right all the time. And if that's a classic planner's defence, I don't know what is.


  1. Hi James,

    I picked this up as you did - way back in High School when I saw my lecturer use it.

    Although it's evolved a step further... it now resembles a '3' with a line through it...

  2. Requesting a picture of this wonderful new symbol - I may have to start a collection.

    It's an interesting question though - how would I know it's an 'and'? Context only, or is there some element of typography that has an and-ness about it?