Latin was once the language of scholars and academics in the Western world. Although this is no longer the case, many terms that have been used for centuries remain staples of modern speech.
- The crime was hidden by sealed records and sub rosa operations.
- Once I arrived at the party I realized I was persona non grata.
- She’s an ex officio member of the board.
When writers want to refer to a group or shorten a list—especially in formal or scholarly writing—they often rely on the Latin abbreviations et al. and etc. Although these terms, like those cited above, have been used for centuries, many people don’t know what they mean. As a result, writers often use them incorrectly.
But worry not—you’re on your way to mastering these ancient terms.
etc. (et cetera) means “and others of the same kind.” It refers to larger category of things—never people.
- Although he’d remembered to pack soap, shampoo, toothpaste, etc., when he tried to board the airplane he realized that he’d forgotten to bring his passport.
- The new car had all the bells and whistles—heated seats, moonroof, 16-speaker stereo system, etc.
Pro tip: Remember that using “and etc.” is redundant (and incorrect).
et al. (et alii), means “and others.” It refers to people, most often a lengthy list of authors.
- Plagiarism in scientific writing has become a major concern that could significantly undermine the credibility of scholarly publishing (Fitzgerald et al. 2018).
- A number of authors, including Dubois et al., indicate that lead, bismuth, and cadmium are common industrial pollutants.
- Dubois, S.M., J.Q. Public, A.B. Smith, et al. “Pollutants in Industrial Manufacturing.” Journal of Environmental Studies 17 (2000): 27–43.
Take a look at the Grammarly blog for a humorous illustration of et al. usage
For more information
The rules and examples discussed here cover the basics of using etc. and et al. Consult a style guide for more details. TCK recommends the Chicago Manual of Style.
Please share your thoughts or ask a question in the comment section below.
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Tom Corson-Knowles is the founder of TCK Publishing, and the bestselling author of 27 books including Secrets of the Six-Figure author. He is also the host of the Publishing Profits Podcast show where we interview successful authors and publishing industry experts to share their tips for creating a successful writing career.