The English language is delightful — but what about its symbols? I’d argue that the most enjoyable symbol to draw in English is the “and symbol,” otherwise known as an ampersand.
Here’s why the ampersand is so wild: there are more than half a dozen different, accepted ways of writing the it! Few other signs have such creative license. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a tour of SIX different permitted methods for how to draw the “and symbol.”
How to Draw an Ampersand
The most common way to write an ampersand symbol is like “&” — hand-drawn by me above. (No, you don’t need the rainbow colors or the shiny highlights like I’ve done in all my illustrations for this article — I just put those hues in because I can’t resist LOTS OF COLOR! But it makes for shockingly pretty ampersands, eh?)
Anyway… to create the “and symbol” with the above method, you can start at either of the two “loose ends” that stick out on the right side. Essentially, you make a figure “8,” but the lower bubble juts out more to the left, the upper part leans to the right, then the two ends stick out visibly. Still too complicated? Here’s another option…
The Easiest Way to Write the “And Symbol”
The absolute simplest way to draw a symbol for “and” would be the plus sign: + but that is not an ampersand. If you want to learn how to write an ampersand easily, check out my illustration above: Just sketch a backwards “3” then put a vertical line above it, plus one below. And, voila! You’ve saved time and space by writing a simple ampersand.
Some people choose to pull the vertical line all the way through, and others attach each to the ends of the backwards “3” — any of those options is fine. (Just like either the spelling aww or aw is accepted in English — it’s surprisingly flexible.) Sick of being simple? Read on…
Fancy Ampersand Symbols
Time to get fancy! There are ALL sorts of thrilling ways to add embellishments to the ampersand symbol, while still having it be accepted as correct. Above is one such example: For this version of the “and symbol,” sketch a backwards number “3,” then add curly-cues on both ends!
Later in this article, you’ll see another version of this method for how to draw an ampersand which sketches the curly-cues in the opposite direction from how they’re pictured above. All these versions are correct!
Truly, isn’t this the coolest symbol in English? It’s so open-minded and flexible — more than any other symbol I can think of in our entire language. Below, you can see the “and symbol” embellished with different thicknesses of lines, and flourishes at either end to make a “shelf” and a “tail.”
History of the “And Symbol”
Just like the history behind the “color or colour” divide, the origin of the ampersand is fascinating. The “and symbol” logogram (character meaning a word or phrase) dates all the way back to the first century A.D. when Latin was still spoken.
“Et” means “and” in Latin, and the symbol “&” evolved from a ligature of writing the Latin “E” and “t” in Roman cursive so closely together that they joined! Now that you know that background, can you see the “E” and “t” in the “and symbols” here?
Origin of the Word “Ampersand”
The word “ampersand” derives from the phrase, “&, per se, and.” The Latin “per se” means “in itself,” so the phrase that became “ampersand” was essentially saying that the symbol “&” means “and.”
The word “ampersand” officially entered English use in the 18th century. Fun fact: the “&” ampersand symbol was often listed as the 27th “quasi-letter” of the alphabet, both in Latin and in English, until the mid-1800s.
When to Use an Ampersand
As an English teacher, I’ve always instructed my students not to use symbols, signs, or abbreviations in their writing unless absolutely necessary, because they can seem too informal. For example, instead of writing, “The irony in both situation one & situation two is…” you should write out the word “and” — don’t use an ampersand. (Similarly, you should write out the words “one” and “two” instead of using the numbers.”
The exception for when it’s ok to use ampersands would be if you’re writing something informal (such as taking notes in your personal notebook), jotting sentences where you need to save space (such as on a whiteboard), or if the symbol is in the official name of a company or other grouping, such as “AT&T.”
The “And Symbol,” in Sum
I hope you now have a newfound adoration of the ampersand symbol! Such a joyous, creative, accepting symbol it is! What is YOUR favorite way of writing the “and symbol?” Can you think of any other symbol in the entire English language that is as flexible in ways to write it? Do share!
Love signs and symbols? View these Pi Day printables and lovely Reiki symbols, and let me know what other visuals you’d like me to illustrate! Just be forewarned that I will insert rainbows in any possible part of my drawings.
The author and artist, Lillie Marshall, is a National Board Certified Teacher of English who has been a public school educator since 2003, and an experienced Reiki practitioner since 2018. All art on this site is original and hand-drawn by Lillie. She launched DrawingsOf.com Educational Cartoons in 2020, building upon the success of her other two sites, AroundTheWorldL.com (established 2009) and TeachingTraveling.com (founded 2010). Subscribe to Lillie’s monthly newsletter, and follow @WorldLillie on social media to stay connected!