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Et al.

Et al.is an abbreviation of the Latin loanphrase et alii, meaning and others. It is similar to etc. (short for et cetera, meaning and the rest), but whereas etc. applies to things, et al. applies to people.

Et al. does not need to be italicized in normal use. It does take a period after the second word, even when it falls in the middle of a sentence. In general, et al. is best reserved for citations and other parenthetical remarks in academic or other types of formal writing. It can sound unnatural when read aloud, so an unabbreviated English equivalent is often better in less formal writing.

The issue of whether to place a comma before et al. is complicated, but you’ll be fine if you treat it as you would the words and others. So when et al. follows a single name (e.g., Tate et al.), it doesn’t need a comma. When it follows more than one name, some publications set et al. apart with a comma, and some don’t. It depends on whether the publication uses the Oxford comma (that is, the last comma in a list—e.g., the one after white in the phrase red, white, and blue).


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There are differing ideas about the use of et al., however. If you are writing a paper for a class, you might want to ask your teacher or professor what he or she prefers (if only for the sake of your grade).

Examples

This grading system, originally proposed by Daumas-Duport, et al., is simple, objective, and reproducible, and correlates well with survival times. [Journal of Neurosurgery]

As a child I disliked everything about Christopher Robin, from his nanny’s beautiful blue dressing gown on the door to his dim-witted friends Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, Tigger et al. [Guardian]

Following Hair et. al., the minimum of the item-to-total correlation per item was defined at .50. [Strategic Management in Islamic Finance, Alexander Pock]

Even the recent Gartner report from star analyst Jane Disbrow et al. shows that 61% of their customers have been audited by at least one software vendor. [Forbes]

In Wisconsin, Keefer et al. (1994b) demonstrated that the nuclei of I CM cells from expanded bovine blastocysts were pluripotent. [Laboratory Production of Cattle Embryos, Ian R. Gordon]

Slaying the goliath that is the Los Angeles Galaxy – David Beckham, Landon Donovan et al. – in the 2009 MLS Cup final proved that. [Globe and Mail]

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Comments

  1. Ldbaldus says:

    Hello…
    I was wondering if I could use ‘et al’ to address a group of recipients in an email. For example, I want to respond to the sender as well as the group of recipients that are copied in an email and one or more may be able to offer a response to a question that I have. I was going to reply as follows:

    Hello Sarah et al.,

    In response to your question blahblablah… Would anyone happen to know if we need to do blahblahblah as well… .

    Also, what is the proper punctuation in the example above? Is this the proper punctuation?

    Hello Sara et al.,

  2. Timothy May says:

    Ditto… when responding to an email where the primary recipient is not the only person in need of the contants and those others are cc’d.

    Dear Dr. Smith et al.

    Thank you for your email expressing the group’s concerns…

  3. Jvanderjagt says:

    I was told by my technical writing prof years ago that the subject of a letter should always be preceded by :  and not , .  For example:

    Dear John:
    not Dear John,

    Over the years I have reverted back to using the comma as it seems that it’s generally more accepted while disregarding its technical correctness.  Either way, my question is this:

    When using “et al.” in addressing recipients, is it ok to have two punctuation marks next to each other? 

    This would include:
    Dear John et al.,
    Dear John Et Al.:

    Noticed Tim used “Dear Dr. Smith et al.” and Ldb used “Hello Sarah et al.,”

  4. what do you use if there is only one other person?

  5. Thanks for this. One question: Do you place a comma after et al., when including a date (eg, “Smith et al. 2011” or “Smith et al., 2011”)?

    Thanks again

  6. Bobby Grazi says:

    In a paper I’m writing, I must address a textbook written by “Osborn, Osborn, and Osborn”. 3 Osborns. Must I mention the three of them every time I need to refer to em? Or can I use et al.?
    How would I write it out?

    And, in an mla in-text citation, must I write (Osborn, Osborne, and Osborn), or can I put it as (Osborne et al.)?

  7. I have a colleague who uses et al. at the beginning of every email when there is more then one person in the email. Is that correct use of the abbreviation?

    • “Dear Mr. Smith et al.,” is an acceptable way to begin an email when more than one person is addressed in that email.

      There is one important issue to take into consideration when addressing correspondence in this style; some believe “et al.” following the name of the primary addressee provides those considered “and others” with equal legal authority which the primary addressee holds in the relationship between the sender and the primary addressee.

      For example, if you were to send an email to your doctor and open with “Dear Dr. Smith et al.” with the office manager and the staff nurse Cc’d in the email then your doctor can reasonably assume that you’re granting permission to those Cc’d to act on your behalf with the same legal authority you’ve granted your doctor. I have used “et al.” in precisely this manner myself when needed but only when there are three or more people in the To or Cc fields combined. When writing to only two people my personal opinion is that “et al.” comes across as impolite and it’s best to address the email to both parties by name.

  8. Can it be used in the address line ex…Mike Brown, James Light, Et. al?

  9. Ivan Kinsman says:

    I have seen, for example, Smith et al., 2013 and Smith et al. 2013 – not sure if the , is needed or not.

  10. Barthead says:

    Hi. When you are referring to a citation that reads “Smith et al.” in your presentation, is it okay to read it aloud just like how it’s written or should it be read as “Smith and the others”?

  11. fatemeh shiri says:

    latin types

  12. Abdelmjid Seghir says:

    Should I place a comma after et al. in the following example, or should I leave it as it is?

    Torgesen, et al. suggest that proficiency in reading “requires that
    students be able to identify the words…”

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