How to punctuate et al

img_38551Is it: et al? et. al? et al.? or et. al.?

Why do people use the phrase et al.? And incidentally, what I just wrote is the right way to punctuate it. A period after the letter “l.”

Merriam Webster’s says the phrase is an abbreviation for “and others.” Same for The Chicago Manual of Style and The Gregg Reference Manual.

This phrase has a somewhat similar meaning to “etc.,” and means there’s a list of names somewhere. It comes from the Latin et alii (masculine plural), et aliae (feminine plural), or et alia (neuter plural).

Lots of options, but most style guides and legal documents seem to prefer just plain “et al.” with a period following the letter “l.” You may wonder why it’s punctuated. Because each word, “alii,” “aliae,” and “alia,” is abbreviated, while “et” is just “et.”

Other than in legal documents, you’ll probably find et al. used mostly in bibliographies. The APA and MLA style guides use “et al.” when referring to specific numbers of people.

Thus, for everyday writing in the personal or business world, you probably can’t go wrong if you use, “et al.”


The Chicago Manual of Style, Sixteenth Edition
The Gregg Reference Manual, Tenth Edition

One Response to “How to punctuate et al”

  1. Janet Crook Says:

    I learn so much from you. Thanks!

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