Et Al Meaning, Punctuation and Usage With Examples

Academic writing is full of intimidating abbreviations borrowed from the Latin language. One of these phrases is “et al.” But what does et al. mean? Is et al. capitalized or italicized?

If you don’t know what et al. means, this guide will show you the proper et al. punctuation and usage. You’ll also learn some examples of how to use it in email and in a sentence.

What Does Et Al. Mean?

It’s not exactly a tricky word to spell or read. Et al. is one of the most common Latin abbreviations used in English, which is an abbreviation of “et alia.” This gender-neutral term’s English translation is “and others.” 

But its Latin origin can be confusing since Latin phrases are often gendered. For instance, “et aliae” is for feminine author names, while “et alii” is for masculine. 

It can also mean “et alibi” or “and elsewhere.” This term may refer to a subject that appears in other parts of the academic paper or formal writing. It’s also for locations that do not appear on the list, like a list of casinos, malls, parks, and more.

The general rule is to use et al. to shorten the list of authors in your post or writing. Academic citations and bibliographic lists are necessary to credit the information’s source in your study or other text. Other citation styles even recommend footnotes. 

How Do You Read Et Al.?

Remember that et al. is merely an abbreviation. But you have to read the full terms, whether it’s “et alia,” “et alii,” or “et aliae.” You can also say the English term “and others.” Another alternative to reading et al. is to mention the whole list of authors. 

The scholarly abbreviation is just like “etc.” You read it as et cetera out loud. 

How Do You Use Et Al.?

The primary goal of et al. is to avoid the lengthy list of names you want to cite. This phrase will save you from typing an entire list, whether you’re writing formal term papers or an email response.

APA Style 

The first of the few usage rules of et al. is only to include it if you have more than two authors to cite. Use it to show that this information has additional citations that do not appear on the list. 

The principal author should always be first on the list. Then, replace the second and other subsequent citations with the Latin abbreviation. 

To write “et al.,” add your initial citation or the primary author. Then, add a space and type “et al.” Never forget the et al. punctuation, which is a period right after the word “al.” Here’s an example of a narrative citation:

  • Correct: Smith et al. (2019) stated that…
  • Incorrect: Smith et al (2019) stated that…

The second example is an error because “al” does not have a period after it. 

If necessary, add a serial comma after the period, such as in daily email greetings and parenthetical citations. The English directions on comma use always apply in this abbreviation. 

  • Correct: Dear Joshua Smith et al.,
  • Incorrect: Dear Joshua Smith et al.
  • Correct: (Palmer, et al., 2009).
  • Incorrect: (Palmer, et al. 2009).

The rule for using et al. is the same in legal citations. Others require different abbreviations in these papers, such as “v.” instead of “vs.” for versus.

Chicago Style

You need to list all the authors in your Chicago style reference list if ten or fewer writers wrote the piece. You can only use et al. if the source has more than ten writers. Write the first seven authors before following with “et al.”

Use it in an email greeting by saying, “Dear Mr. Smith et al.,” when there is more than one recipient. For punctuation, always follow the abbreviation with a period since it’s short for “et alia” or “and others.”

Et Alibi

Et al. is also short for et alibi. Use it to refer to occurrences of subjects in a piece of writing. You may also use it to refer to other places that do not show up on the list. 

This example is from William Trollope. He used it to imply that the Greek phrase under consideration appears in other domains of the Bible.

  • The [Greek phrase] to make a feast (Mark VI. 21, et alibi) is, of course, anarthrous.

Be careful not to commit punctuation errors when using it in this sense. Always add a period after the “al.”

Et Al. vs. Etc.—What’s the Difference?

Many people question the difference between et al. and etc. While et al. is for citing authors, etc. or “et cetera” is for English phrases or English terms implying that other members in a group or list exist. Take a look at this example:

  • I need to buy new curtains, couches, shelves, etc. for my new apartment.

The speaker in the sentence gives many examples of furniture pieces. Then, they use etc. to imply that they need other things under the “furniture” category.

  • Johnson et al. (2022) discussed the commonality of this phenomenon in the fields of biology, chemistry, physics, etc.

In this example, etc. is used to refer to other science-related subjects.

Is Et Al. Capitalized?

In citations of sources, only the author’s name must be capitalized. All style rules suggest that “et al.” is in lowercase. For example:

  • Correct: According to previous studies by Wilson, et al. (2016) and Beischel (2013)…
  • Incorrect: According to previous studies by Wilson, Et Al. (2016) and Beischel (2013)…

Is Et Al. Italicized?

Whether you’re using et al. in your bibliographies, citations, or footnotes, most style guides do not suggest italics. It’s one of the most common errors writers commit in their publications. For example:

  • Correct: An earlier study by Nguyen et al. (2020) showed otherwise.
  • Correct: An earlier study by Nguyen et al. (2020) showed otherwise.

Should Et Al. Be in Bold?

Et al. should not be in bold. There are no formatting rules when writing this Latin abbreviation. The only convention is to write the last name, followed by et al. Add a comma and the year of publication for parenthetical citations, 

When You Shouldn’t Use Et Al.

The different systems of citations have exceptions on the use of et al. Some issues will require you to add the principal author and subsequent text citations.

For instance, you might cite two different sources with the same primary author. The reference citation rule for twins is to write a comprehensive list of all authors to avoid confusion. For example:

  • Source 1: (Davis, Lopez, Wilson, Anderson, 2010).
  • Source 2: (Davis, Lopez, Wilson, Anderson, Walker, Robinson, 2010).

There are also cases where two sources have the same authors and publication year. Use the same method of citation described above. For example:

  • Source 1: (Davis, Lopez, Wilson, Anderson, 2010).
  • Source 2: (Davis, Lopez, Wilson, Anderson, 2010).

Examples of Et Al. in a Sentence

During infection, S protein of SARS-Cov-2 binds with human ACE2 (Angiotensin-Converting Enzyme 2) protein, a component of renin–angiotensin–aldosterone system involved in regulation of blood pressure in humans (Yan et al., 2020a). (Wiley)

As noted by Collier et al. (2009), factors such as state capacity and rebel financing through natural resource rents play a major role in determining whether armed rebellion is feasible and for grievances to escalate into full-blown armed civil war. (Vox Eu)

Guo et al. focused their project on exploring how S100s contribute to the pathogenesis of SARS-CoV-2. To investigate this relationship, the researchers infected monkeys (rhesus macaques) with SARS-CoV-2 and analyzed the RNA molecules in the monkeys’ lungs and blood after infection. (Forbes)

Note that et al. isn’t only present in the body of different texts. It’s also common in footnotes and bibliographies in academic papers. 

Et Al. Summary

The old-fashioned rule of citing sources makes you more responsible and credible as a writer. Now you’ve got the answer to the question, what does et al. mean? It’s a Latin abbreviation whose English translation is “and others.”

I hope this guide clarified other quick questions you had, such as Is et al. capitalized? Is et al. italicized? How should you use it in a sentence? Always observe proper punctuation by adding a period after “al.”