Etc. and Et al.

Commonly Confused Words

The abbreviations etc. and et al. are related, but they shouldn't be used interchangeably.

The abbreviation etc. (from the Latin et cetera) means "and so on." Etc. is most commonly used in informal or technical writing to suggest the logical continuation of a list. A period (full stop) belongs after the c in etc.

The abbreviation et al. (from the Latin et alii) means "and others." Et al. is most commonly used in bibliographic citations and in informal or technical writing to suggest the logical continuation of a list of people (not, as a general rule, of things).

A period belongs after the l in et al. (but not after the t).

Avoid the redundant phrases and etc. and and et al.

Examples

  • Together the teachers and students participate in large group activities--discussion boards, Internet forums, blogs, etc.
  • Blachowicz et al. (2006, p. 532) refer to this form of vocabulary development as "incidental word learning."
  • "I know how the song goes. In fact, not only do Donner, Blitzen, et al., not love him and laugh out loud with glee, but they doubly despise the bulbous-nosed little wimp."
    (Kelsey Grammer as Dr. Frasier Crane in Cheers, 1986)

Usage Notes

  • "Do not use etc. or an equivalent expression at the end of a series introduced by such as, for example, or e.g. Such terms imply that only a few selected examples will be given; therefore, it is unnecessary to add etc. or and so on, which suggests that further examples could be given."
    (William A. Sabin, The Gregg Reference Manual, 10th ed. McGraw-Hill, 2005)
  • "Use etc. with a logical progression (1, 2, 3, etc.) and when at least two items are named. . . . Otherwise, avoid etc. because the reader may not be able to infer what other items a list might include."
    (Gerald J. Alred, Charles T. Brusaw, and Walter E. Oliu, Handbook of Technical Writing, 8th ed. Bedford/St. Martin's, 2006)
  • "Et cetera: the expression that makes people think you know more than you do."
    (Herbert Prochnow)

Practice

(a) Teachers should help students notice how the “little words” (a, and, of, with, from, _____) have very specific meanings in math word problems.

(b) A study by Boonen _____ found that work disability and incapacity increased steadily with the duration of the disease.

 

Answers

(a) Teachers should help students notice how the “little words” (a, and, of, with, frometc.) have very specific meanings in math word problems.

(b) A study by Boonen et al. found that work disability and incapacity increased steadily with the duration of the disease.