Abbreviation Confusions: E.g., Et al., Etc., and I.e.,

Posted March 29, 2013 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Editing, Self-Editing, Word Confusions, Writing

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This is simply a part of my own fascination with language. I became curious as to what exactly an e.g. is or an et al. I’m comfortable with etc. and i.e., but I did get curious about the punctuation with them, well, with all four of these Latin abbreviations.

This fascination would probably be a moot point, if I’d only taken Latin with my sister back in high school. To think I used to laugh at her for learning a dead language. Well, she’s still having the last laugh… And I’m still wishing I had taken Latin along with her.

Word Confusions…

…started as my way of dealing with a professional frustration with properly spelled words that were out of context in manuscripts I was editing as well as books I was reviewing. It evolved into a sharing of information with y’all. I’m hoping you’ll share with us words that have been a bête noir for you from either end. Consider sharing this Word Confusion with friends by tweeting it.

Abbreviation Explanation


A cartoon infographic on e.g.

“E.G. Comics” courtesy of The Oatmeal

I love not being a vegetarian, e.g., I can eat beef, pork, fowl, and more.

exempli gratia, for example

It introduces a list of some possibilities
Always include a comma after the g. or gratia
For Example:
Using “e.g.” indicates what I like to read and includes these genres among others, in other words, for example:

I love to read, e.g., mysteries, paranormal, history, and military fiction.

et al.

Carnival in Veracruz at night

“Crowd of People During Carnival in Veracruz” is Chivista’s own work under the CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL licenses, via Wikimedia Commons

Me and a few of my friends, et al.

et alii, and other people, and others

Always use a period if using the abbreviation, et al.
Used when referring to people too numerous to mention
Never use et al. to refer to things

Caution: Use only for people; for things, see etc..
For Example:
Using et al. includes every person associated with Gardner and his conclusions.

These are the conclusions of Gardner et al.

Style Guides Have Differing Rules

APA: Use when there are six or more authors, e.g., Jones, et al., 1995

ASA: When there are three or more authors, use et al. for subsequent citations, e.g., the first one would read “Jones, Smith, and Brown 1995” while subsequent citations would read “Jones et al. 1995”

When there are four or more authors, use et al. in all citations, e.g., Jones et al. 1995

ASA seems flexible about a comma with examples that use or don’t use the comma, e.g., “Jones et al. 1995” or “Jones et al., 1995”

Chicago: Use in the note when there are four or more authors, e.g., Jones et al.

MLA: You may choose to use et al. in the citations and/or bibliography when there are four or more authors, e.g., Jones et al.


Poster of a variety of music types

“Pop Etcetera” is courtesy of SoundCloud

“Pop” includes a wide range of music styles: hip hop, rock, country, punk, folk, funk, etc.

et cetera / etcetera, “and the other things, the rest”

Used at the end of a list to indicate that further, similar items are included.

May also indicate the list is too tedious or clichéd to give in full.

Always include a comma after the etc. if it’s not the end of the sentence.

If it is the end of the sentence, you only need the period at the end of etc.; never use two periods! No etc..

Caution: Use only for things; for people, see et al.

NEVER use with and, as in and etc.—the et is Latin for and.

For Example:
Useful for indicating sarcasm (who me?)

Yeah, yeah, yeah, etc., etc., etc.

We’re trying to resolve problems of obtaining equipment, drugs, etcetera.

We’ve all got to do our duty, pull our weight, et cetera, et cetera.

The we’re supposed to clean the bathroom after we do our rooms, and then we have to mow the lawn, etc., and then…


Funny poster about using i.e.

“I.E. Comics” courtesy of The Oatmeal

In other words, i.e., goes on to note exactly what you mean.

id est, “in other words”, “that is”

Always include a comma after the e. or est

Usually a finite list or item

For Example:
Using “i.e.,” restricts what I love to read to only these genres.

I love to read, i.e., mysteries, paranormal, history, and military fiction.

Breakfast basics are for everyday eating, i.e., bacon, eggs, toast, juice, milk, and cereal.

History of the Words:
Each abbreviation is from Latin.

C’mon, get it out of your system, bitch, whine, moan…which words are your pet peeves? Also, please note that I try to be as accurate as I can, but mistakes happen or I miss something. Email me if you find errors, so I can fix them…and we’ll all benefit!

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Pinterest Photo Credits:

“Mindspace Circles” by Nancy Margulies is courtesy of Culture of Empathy.