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Here's Everything You Need to Know About Et Al.

Who speaks Latin anymore? Really, very few people do, however Latin phrases or abbreviations are abundant in English academic writing. Despite their initial confusion, they end up saving space and creating a more uniform format. So, if you've encountered one of these phrases—et al. for example—you'll eventually find it useful in your academic research.

Think of it like riding a bike: Once you understand the concept, the rest is easy!

Et al. means "and others"

Et al. has come to represent three different Latin phrases, particularly et alia (neuter plural), et alii (masculine plural), and et aliae (feminine plural). The definition from Merriam-Webster is and others.

Et al. Example 1
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Et al. Example 2
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Writing et al.

Keep in mind that since the latter part of the expression "et al." represents multiple Latin words, the correct way to punctuate it is to include a period at the end. Since "et" means "and," there is no reason to put a period following it. Also, there is no reason to put "et al." in italics, even though it is a Latin phrase (mainly because it has been used in the English language for hundreds of years).

A look at an example

To see how "et al." is used in an academic work, let's take a look at a sample paper pulled from the APA (American Psychological Association) website.

Looking back at page two in the paper, "The effects of age in the detection of emotion," you'll see the following citation:

(Carretie, Hinojosa, Marin-Loeches, Mecado & Tapia, 2004).

This is the first reference to this particular study, which according to APA rules, must include all authors' names when initially mentioned.

Now, moving to page four, at the top of the page, we see the following group of citations:

(Calvo & Lang, 2004; Carretie et al., 2004; Juth, Lundqvist, Karlsson, & Ohman, 2005; Nummenmaa et al., 2006).

The mention of "Carretie et al., 2004" is referring to the same study we saw cited on page two. The only difference is the fact that it is no longer being mentioned for the first time. Now, throughout the rest of the paper, the author can use "et al." to refer to Carretie's research writing partners without having to list all their names. The only exception is when listing it in the bibliography, works cited, or reference list—it must then include all authors' names in the citation.

More examples

Although "et al." is mostly seen in academic writing contexts, it can also be used in less formal writing, while still maintaining the meaning "and others." Here are some examples:

  • Let's pack a picnic basket, with sandwiches, fruit, wine, cheese, et al.
  • The loan officer wants paperwork turned in as soon as possible, including bank statements, tax documents, paycheck stubs, et al.
  • Winter is finally here—ice, sleet, et al.
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