looking for a sign
September 15, 2007 12:48 AM   Subscribe

Is there a symbol for the phrase "and/or"?

LIke a logical symbol or any other commonly accepted symbol. For example, "or" is often represented by "/", and "and" by "+". Is there a single symbol for "and/or"? (I dont want to just say "/+", i'm looking for a single symbol even if its an obscure one requiring a character code).
Example of and/or: As in, "You can use the this hammer and/or that hammer".
posted by jak68 to Writing & Language (19 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Are you talking about XOR?
posted by Loser at 1:03 AM on September 15, 2007

Well, XOR is "exclusive OR", right? If so, I think that just means "a OR b but NOT both". So I dont think that works.
posted by jak68 at 1:10 AM on September 15, 2007

Technically, the symbol for logical or is the thing you're looking for. You'll just have to go convince everybody to stop saying "or" when they really mean "xor".
posted by IvyMike at 1:20 AM on September 15, 2007

Technically, in logic, the concept "or" means the same thing that we colloquially use "and/or" for.

If you have two propositions p and q, and you would like a statement to be true if either of them are true, then you write:
... which you would read "p or q".

In normal English, when you say "p and/or q", you mean that any of the following may be true:
- p and not q
- q and not p
- p and q both.

The logic statement "pq" is true in the same situations, i.e., its trueness requires only that one of the two propositions be true, not both.

In computer programming languages, instead of ∨, they use | or ||, depending on the specific language or context.
posted by blacklite at 1:20 AM on September 15, 2007

I don't think that the XOR is the correct answer. The XOR (exclusive OR) is like the "or" that we normally use in English.

e.g., "Use the hammer or the screwdriver."
This sentence implies that you will use either the hammer or the screwdriver, but not both.

I think that jak68 is asking for the inclusive OR, which allows the possibility of using both the hammer -and- the screwdriver, as well as simply choosing one or the other. In logic, this inclusive OR is simply referred to as OR, and it is the XOR that is marked differently.

Depending on what you want, you can use different symbols to represent then inclusive OR. Here are some examples off the top of my head:

* V (e.g., p V q)
* || (e.g., p || q; some programming languages use this)
* U (e.g., p U q; only used in set theory, and possibly inappropriate for applying to single items)

If you wanted to be really wacky, you could try using the OR gate symbol. I don't know where you would find the character for that, though.

Hope this helps!
posted by tickingclock at 1:29 AM on September 15, 2007 [1 favorite]

The usual unambiguous term is "inclusive OR" (as distinct from "exclusive OR"). In boolean algebra IOR is represented as a plus sign, and I think I've seen a symbol that looks like a plus sign with a circle around it used to represent XOR.

As regards to programming languages, at least in C the symbol "|" means "bitwise inclusive OR" and "||" means "logical inclusive OR". "^" is "bitwise exclusive OR". (Exponentiation is handled with a named function.)

And it turns out that the logical exclusive OR is "!=" so there isn't any special symbol for that one.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:30 AM on September 15, 2007

Unfortunately, I don't think there's any symbol that means IOR which is in common use except for "and/or". All the other ways of representing it are used by specialists: mathematicians and programmers.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 1:32 AM on September 15, 2007

everyone, thanks. That makes sense. Ordinary "or" is already inclusive and so is already and/or; but in common practice we dont think of it that way. I'll use one of the symbols from tickingclock's post. I'll probably use || cuz its easiest to type.
posted by jak68 at 1:36 AM on September 15, 2007

This could wreak havoc at a restaurant: "This sandwich comes with soup OR fries OR mashed potatoes" -- isn't that an "inclusive or" by default? ;D
posted by jak68 at 2:24 AM on September 15, 2007

* U (e.g., p U q; only used in set theory, and possibly inappropriate for applying to single items)

I can use my years of education to conclusively state that you can use this for single items, as they are sets of one item, although pedantically you might be supposed to write it {p} U {q} or something.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:49 AM on September 15, 2007

Add '|' to tickingclock's reply. It's at least one way Google handles inclusive or.
posted by monkeymadness at 6:55 AM on September 15, 2007

SCDB: Derailing, but C's != is only directly equivalent to XOR when you're working with strictly boolean values. Since everything but 0 is considered true, 1 != 5 is true, whereas a proper 1 XOR 5 would be false. However, !!a != !!b will convert all nonzero values to 1. The logical opposite, !a != !b, works too, but it's slightly less obvious what it's trying to achieve.
posted by abcde at 7:48 AM on September 15, 2007

jak68, there's some debate among people who study this stuff over whether ordinary English "or" is usually inclusive or exclusive. My own feeling is that it's more frequently exclusive.

It's easy enough to get people to understand what you mean, though - eg and/or. either/or, or you can just emphasize the word "OR" (to indicate exclusivity), or you can add "or both" at the end (to indicate inclusivity).
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:50 AM on September 15, 2007

Yep, you want "U" or "V".

As a follow up to tickingclock's excellent answer, in the contexts in which "U" comes up (set theory and probability theory in my world) it is a-okay to use it with single elements (or events.)
posted by lastyearsfad at 1:50 PM on September 15, 2007

you can use this for single items, as they are sets of one item

A single item is _not_ a set containing one item: {a} != a.
posted by advil at 2:29 PM on September 15, 2007

"U" is also sometimes used with predicates. The meaning is the set of models(or states in a transition system) that satisfy at least one of the predicates.
posted by Zach! at 3:14 PM on September 15, 2007

well the problem with using U or V, I thought, is that they're alphabets and that might cause confusion in text or narrative. So I thought either | or || is sufficiently different looking. I thought I'd use | for inclusive or and || for exclusive or.
I might just end up using +/ I suppose. || seems easiest to type. I suppose I like V as well. These are mostly to be used in my own personal notes so I'm not terribly worried about causing confusion; just have to decide on a system for myself.
Thanks for all the info though.
posted by jak68 at 10:37 PM on September 15, 2007

(actually I meant that I'd use | for "EXCLUSIVE or" and || for "inclusive or").
posted by jak68 at 10:46 PM on September 15, 2007

A single item is _not_ a set containing one item: {a} != a.

Fucking pedant.
posted by TheOnlyCoolTim at 6:09 AM on September 16, 2007

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