Ranges: Range limits II

August 7, 2003: Issue 65

SIM STYLE: If I use an ampersand (&) to replace the word “and” in a series, do I still use the serial comma?
No. The two marks appear awkward together.
incorrect: Style, News, & Inspiration
correct: Style, News & Inspiration

Note: An ampersand should be used only in display type, usually headlines or cover blurbs, for visual appeal. In all other uses, the word “and” is most often appropriately written out.

GRAMMAR: Is it correct to specify a range, then add “or more”?
No. Any time we give a range, it should be considered all-encompassing. Usually when we see this construction, it’s with prices or temperatures, where we intend to give a typical range yet indicate the value may sometimes go higher.
example: The widgets cost $20-$40 or more.

The problem with this construction is that the “or more” makes the upper boundary indefinite, rendering the numbers themselves meaningless. A tweak in the wording, to offer either slightly less or slightly more information, is usually all it takes to fix the problem.
correct: A typical widget costs $20-$40.
correct: Most widgets cost $20-$40, but some can cost as much as $100.

I tend to prefer the “slightly less information” tack. Even the least savvy consumers know that just because they can pick up a toilet seat at Home Depot for $25 doesn’t mean J.Lo and Ben aren’t going to drop $100,000 for a diamond-encrusted model. The sky is almost always the limit, and there’s usually not much to be gained by pointing that out.

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