Et Al. – How To Use It Correctly In Every Format?: Expert Guide [Definition, Common Mistakes]

Et Al.

You must have come across the expression “Et Al.” while reading textual content. It is an abbreviation often used in academic writing. Do you wonder what et al. actually means? Why do writers use it in their write-ups? What is the correct placement of this popular phrase?

In this detailed post, we will be exploring and answering all these queries. Get ready to learn how to use et al. correctly in different formats. Besides, understand the common mistakes people make while using et al. in their sentences.


Et Al.


A Quick Introduction: What Does Et Al. Mean?

Et Al. Definition: “Et Alia” or “Et Al.” is a derivation of a Latin phrase that translates to “in addition”, or “and others”, or “extra”. The term et al. is always accompanied by a period, which represents that it is an abbreviation.

It is widely used while mentioning references and in-text citations in academic papers. For instance, in case a book has multiple authors; you can use et al. after specifying the first name. It indicates the collaborative efforts of more than two authors or editors in completing the book. Hence, the bibliographic list should be something like this; “Nelson, Feynman, Jordan, et al.”

Now that we have explained what et al. is, it’s time to jump into the nitty-gritty of this popular phrase.


What Is The Purpose Of Using Et Al.?

It is crucial to understand the reason for the existence of et al. in the world of academic writing. The key purpose of using et al. is to simplify the citations within a reference list of text. It informs the readers about the authors and editors who made the efforts to completion of a project. Thus, you do not have to list every single author’s name.

Besides, it simplifies the subsequent references to the groups of authors that have already been cited in full within a work. This way, you can avoid citing the same group over and over again. Instead, using a simple et al. will do the job.


How To Use Et Al. Correctly In A Text?

Many times, despite understanding et al. meaning, people get confused about its usage. As we have already discussed that the term is always followed by a period i.e., “et al.”. It is quite similar to some other commonly used abbreviations, such as “etc.”, which is et cetera. It means, “and the rest”.


Common Ways People Misspell Et Al.

  • Et. Al
  • Et. Al.
  • Et Al
  • Et All

Another important thing to note is, if you’re using et al., with other punctuation, such as a comma then it comes after the period. However, when et al. is used in the end, there is no need to use any additional period afterward.


Should Et Al. Be Italicized?

Do we have to italicize et al.? This confusion arises due to the Latin origin of the phrase. When it comes to the font style, you don’t need to italicize et al. This rule applies to the major style formats such as MLA, APA, Harvard, and Chicago Manual of style. Latin origins. It is because et al. has been prevalent in the English language ever since the 1800s.

However, if you’re sometimes a publication may follow a certain set of rules for in-text citations. Hence, it is best to double-check the rules on how to use et al. appropriately as per the guidelines.

Let us move further and discuss the right way to use this tricky expression correctly for different writing formats.


Is There A Need To Capitalize The “Et”?

Not at all! Since “et” is not a proper noun, it usually does not appear at the beginning of a sentence. Hence, capitalizing “et” does not make sense.


The Right Way To Use Et Al. In Different Formats – Explained With Examples


1. APA Format

The American Psychological Association established the APA format. It is widely used for essays, reports, and publications. Besides, it is a commonly adopted format for books in the field of social science and psychology.

Here is a wide array of subjects to which APA format is applied:

  • Economics
  • Humanities
  • Healthcare
  • Psychology
  • Sociology
  • Linguistics
  • Nursing
  • Healthcare

So, when should you use et al. in APA format?

7th Edition:

In APA, when a source has more than three or more authors, we cite the first author followed by et al. This is as per the 7th edition.

For example:

Leonard et al. (2018), or

(Leonard et al., 2020)

If there are two authors, et al. is not required. Placing et al. where there are only two others would be completely incorrect. It would only indicate that there are more than two others involved.

This means you can cite the authors’ names like this:

(McDonnel & Anderson, 2020)

In the case of APA, it is recommended not to use et al. in the reference list. Rather, it’s best to list up to 20 authors completely. If a source has 20+ authors then enlist the 19, followed by an ellipsis (…), and after that mention the final name.

6th Edition:

According to the 6th edition of APA format, the rules are a bit different.

When a source has three to five authors, you must enlist all the authors at first. Et al. is only used in the subsequent citations. But, if there are six or more authors, et al. is placed right from the first citation.

For example:

When there are 3-5 authors:

  • First citation – (David, Baldwin, Shawn, Singh, & Smith, 2019)
  • Subsequent citations – (David et al., 2019)

In the case of 6+ authors:

  • First citation – (McDonnell et al., 2020)
  • Subsequent citations – (McDonnell et al., 2020)


2. MLA Format

The MLA format was established by the Modern Language Association. It primarily focuses on the set of academic guidelines for professional researchers and students working in the fields of literature and language. The goal is to enable readers a smooth reading experience.


MLA format is commonly used in the following subjects:

  • Literary criticism
  • Cultural studies
  • Language and literature
  • Comparative literature

So, what is et al. in MLA format of writing?

As per the 9th edition of MLA format, which is also the most recent one, et al. is used for sources with three or more authors. The rule remains the same for both, in-text citations and enlisting the works cited.

For example:

When there are 1-2 authors:

  • In-text citation – (Josh and Hanks)
  • Word cited list – Josh, Holland, and Robert Hanks. …

In case of 3+ authors:

  • In-text citation – (McDonnell et al.)
  • Word cited list – McDonnell, Cruise, et al. …


3. Chicago Style

The Chicago Manual of Style is also known as CMOS, CMS, or simply Chicago. It is widely adopted by editors, indexers, designers, authors, and publishers. Chicago style is majorly used for preparing manuscripts and to provide aid for the revision of punctuations, grammar, and usage. It is important to note that this style is commonly applied to creative non-fiction, blogs, and novels.


Here are the fields where the Chicago style is used:

  • History
  • Arts
  • Literature
  • Natural Science
  • Social Science

Let’s see what does et al. mean in Chicago style and how does it work?

The Chicago style offers two systems of citations. These are:

  • Notes and bibliography
  • Author-date style

Therefore, the system you opt for decides the placement of et al.

In the case of one, two, or three authors you must enlist all the names in the in-text citations. This rule applies to both, footnotes and the author-date system. However, if there are four or more authors, place et al. after the first name.

For example:

When there are 1-3 authors:

  • Footnotes – Smith Jones and Robert Snow,…
  • Author-date – (Smith and Robert 2020)

For 4+ authors:

  • Footnotes – Shawn Frank et al., …
  • Author-date –Frank et al., …

You can list up to 10 authors for a source. But, if there are more than 10 authors then enlist the first seven, followed by et al.


4. Harvard Style

Harvard is a popular academic writing format across top global universities. It is also known as Author-Date Referencing and Harvard Referencing System. The format allows students to easily format their papers and cite the sources.

The disciplines where Harvard style is used are:

  • Behavioural Sciences
  • Philosophy
  • Humanities

Students should understand that the Harvard style doesn’t follow a rigid set of instructions. They can be changed as per the guidelines shared by your professors.

But, let us now discuss what does et al. mean in Harvard style of formatting.

You need to use et al. when there are four or more authors. This applies to both, footnotes as well as a bibliography.


What Happens When You Do Not Use Et Al.?

By now you must have understood et al. meaning and the significance of its usage. But, have you ever wondered what happens when you do not use et al. in your papers?

Et al. is an easy way to maintain a clear, and direct way of communicating the information related to the source. It enables you to inform the readers about the details without too much explanation. It is an excellent and smart way to list the authors, editors, or collaborators who contributed to accomplishing successful results in preparing the source. It prevents you from the hard work of listing every person involved.

Moreover, if you need to reference a source with multiple collaborators or authors repeatedly, et al. helps maintain clean output.

Therefore, it would be safe to say that every student must understand how to use et al. in academic writing. Not using it can result in poorly crafted, lengthy, and awkward-looking paper. In fact, it unnecessarily extends the list of bibliographies and references. It would be ideal to say that et al. is the best way to maintain a clean referencing section.


How Does Etc. Differ From Et Al.?

Students quite often get confused between etc. and et al. It happens due to similarities in their meanings. Moreover, both of these are abbreviations. Yet, both expressions are entirely different from each other. Hence, you should, by all means, avoid using them interchangeably or incorrectly within your paper.

The meaning of etc. is “and so on”. Whereas, et al. means “and others” which you must have figured out by et al. definition we stated in the starting. Let us elaborate on it better.


  • Etc.

Etc. is the abbreviation used for et cetera, which is another Latin expression. It means, “and so on”. It represents continuity in a list of items.

Here is an example:

In her bag, she packed her lipstick, blusher, primer, face cream, mascara, etc.

It should be noted that “etc.” is appropriate for informal writing. Thus, it is best to avoid it in formal academic writing. Further, the phrase is only used when the readers can easily discern the rest of the items in the list. If you look at the above example, isn’t it obvious that we are referring to the makeup items in the bag?

However, if we say, “On her trip to New York, she carried her favorite novel, passport, clothes, tab, etc.” This shows we are indicating towards the official documents, which is a more diverse list of items.

Note: “Etc.” is always followed by a period.


  • Et Al.

As you can easily refer to the et al. meaning mentioned in this post, the Latin phrase translates to “and others”. It indicates the continuity of the list of people.

Commonly used in academic writing, et al. is used for referencing a paper. When several editors, authors, or contributors collaborate on a study, report, or text, “et al.” comes to the rescue. It is used only if your chosen format or style allows you to include it.

Another usage of et al. is while naming a law or accounting firm. A letterhead may not allow enough room to list all the involved partners. In case, you can use et al.

For instance: “ Denise, Moore, Shawn, Sullivan, et al. 

So, it is safe to say that et al. shows the continuation of the list of people. On the other hand, etc. simply indicates a list of items.

E.g. is another popular Latin phrase that expands to exempli gratia. A lot of people understand e.g. meaning, that is, “for example”. It is also used in textual content quite frequently.


Wrapping Up

Abbreviations can sometimes be challenging. However, once you understand their correct meaning and usage, they are an excellent way to simplify the academic writing experience. Further, it makes your write-up look professional and seamless. This guide throws light on the precise spelling of “et al.” Moreover, we discussed the application of et al. as per the different academic formats. In case you need professional guidance with your academic essays and assignments, Writing My Essay is your perfect solution! We have a pool of qualified talented experts always ready to help you out with their bouquet of top-notch quality services at affordable prices! We hope you fount this post insightful!