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Et al. and Other Latin Abbreviations


Although we see abbreviated Latin words in articles, it can still be confusing as sometimes the way people use them is incorrect. Many Latin abbreviations have fallen out of common use, but still used in scholarly writing – ibid., etc., and i.e. are frequently used in text and reference citations.

Students discussing latin abbreviations

Definition of et al.

Et al. means “and others” in Latin. Actually, it’s an abbreviation for the Latin phrase “et alia”. As you’ll notice, ‘et’ is a word and al. is the abbreviation for “alia”. That’s why there is no period after ‘et’ but there is after al.

You’ll see this abbreviation a lot in scholarly writing as it’s an easier way to refer to multiple authors. Many times, researchers in a certain field will collaborate on papers, which results in two or more, sometimes even seven or eight authors listed in one reference. It would be awkward to have to write out all names in your in-text citation so et al. is used after listing the first author’s last name.

Using Latin Abbreviations Correctly

APA, Chicago and MLA styles accept et al. in their rules.


Brown et al. states that students do not like cafeteria food unless they’re very hungry, in their research conducted in 2015.


However, if you have several sources with the same authors listed in various combinations, you will need to list more than the first author.


However, later research conducted by Brown, Jones, et al. disproved the earlier research.


However, later research, conducted by Brown, Jones, Torres, et al., disproved the earlier research.


Note: Use a comma after et al. if you would normally place a comma as it is spelled out as “and others”.


Note: Use et al. in reference to people, not things.


Other Latin abbreviations

Use these abbreviations in your parenthetical or in-text citations only. Do not use Latin abbreviations while writing your report. Instead use their English translations.


i.e.that is
etc.and so forth

Commonly Confused Terms

Often writers confuse i.e. and e.g.; however, learning the difference will make your writing clearer.

This is short for the Latin phrase id est, which means ‘that is’.


This is short for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means ‘for example’.


When writing an article, use ‘and so forth’ or ‘for example’ rather than the Latin abbreviation. It’s always better to use clear, concise language in your writing. Words that are abbreviated or otherwise broken up, distract the reader.

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About the author

Adrienne Mathewson

Adrienne Mathewson, Editor-in-Chief of Bibliography.com, is an Information Professional with a Master’s in Library, Information & Science from San José State University with an emphasis on information literacy and scholarly publishing. She is a certified librarian through the State of New Mexico.

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