“A, B, and/or C”

I’d like to revisit and/or.

For the most part, there’s nothing to say about and/or other than (1) A and/or B means A or B or both, (2) and/or can create confusion and  be misused, and (3) it’s clearer to use instead the structure A or B or both. Beyond that, I don’t get worked up about and/or, as many other usages create more problems than does and/or.

But consider the following:

A, B, and/or C
one or all of A, B, and C
one or more of A, B, and C

The phrases in italics are the alternative meanings of A, B, and/or C. When you have more than two items linked by and/or, what happens is that you fall into the deep, dark hole that is uncertainty over whether the or is inclusive or exclusive. That’s something that over the years has consumed many of my brain cells. So if and/or links more than two items, it’s flat-out ambiguous.

This was pointed out to me by one of the manuscript readers sent to me by the drafting gods. I haven’t seen it discussed in the literature. Have any of you?

A good starting point for anyone delving into and/or would be this survey by Ted Tjaden.

About the author

Ken Adams is the leading authority on how to say clearly whatever you want to say in a contract. He’s author of A Manual of Style for Contract Drafting, and he offers online and in-person training around the world. He’s also chief content officer of LegalSifter, Inc., a company that combines artificial intelligence and expertise to assist with review of contracts.