Cathy Aranda
Cathy Aranda

The Purpose and Usage of et al. in Citations

5 min read

Published on: Jun 15, 2024

Last updated on: Jun 21, 2024

Et.Al

In academic writing, clarity is key. One tool that aids in concise citations is et al.

But what does it mean? How do we use it correctly in APA, MLA, and Chicago styles? In this blog, we'll explore the purpose and usage of et al. to help writers master citation conventions effectively.

Let's dive in and make citations simpler!

What Do We Understand by et al.?

et al. is a short way to refer to a group of people. In Latin, it means “and others.” When you see it in a citation, it means there are more authors than the ones listed. For example, if a research paper has many authors, instead of listing them all, you can use et al. after the first author's name. It helps keep the citation neat and saves space. 

Using et al. makes it clear that there are other authors involved without listing all their names. It's a handy shortcut used in academic writing to make things simpler and clearer.

How to Use et al. in Different Citation Formats?

Now that we've explored the significance of et al. in citations let's discover its application across various citation formats.

et al. in APA Style

In APA style, employ "et al." in in-text citations when a work involves three or more authors. Include the first author's name followed by "et al." and the publication year. 

Here are some examples:

Type of Source

Authors

Year

Title

In-text Citation

Journal Article

Smith, Johnson, et al.       

2020

Global Health Issues  

(Smith et al., 2020)

Book

Brown, White, et al.           

2018

Trends in Fashion

(Brown et al., 2018)

Journal Article

Green, M., & White, L.

2021

Strategies for Climate Change Adaptation

(Green et al., 2021)

et al. in MLA Style

In MLA style, it is used similarly to APA style but with some differences. When citing sources with three or more authors, you include only the first author's name followed by et al. This rule applies to both in-text citations and the work's cited list. If there are only two authors, you list both names.

Here's how it looks:

Number of Authors

In-text Citation

Works Cited Entry

Three or More Authors

(Green et al.)

Green, Mary, et al. Title of the Article. Publisher. Year

et al. in Chicago Style

When citing sources with three or more authors in Chicago style, you still include only the first author's name, followed by et al. in the in-text citation.

However, in the bibliography, you list all the authors.

Number of Authors

In-text Citation

Bibliography Entry

Four or More Authors

(Brown et al.)

All Author Names, et al. Title of the Article. Publisher. Year

Ten or more authors 

(Jacob et al.)

First seven Author Names, et al. Title of Article, Publisher, Year

et al. vs etc. What’s the Difference?

While both are abbreviations used in writing, they serve different purposes.

Aspect

et al.

etc.

Meaning

Represents additional authors in citations

Indicates additional items in a list

Full Form

"et alia" (Latin)

"et cetera" (Latin)

Usage

Used in citations for multiple authors

Used to signify more items in a list

Example

Smith, J., Johnson, A., et al. (2020)

Fruits, vegetables, milk, etc.

Purpose

Streamlines citations in academic writing

Indicates unspecified additional items

Key Considerations While Using et al. 

Here are the common mistakes to avoid when using "et al." in citations, explained in simpler language:

  • Use the right words with 'et al.': If you're talking about a bunch of people, say "Jason et al. are" instead of "Jason et al. is."
  • Put the dots in the right place: When you write "et al.," make sure you put a dot after "al" every time. This dot tells people it's a shortcut.
  • Keep the dots in order: If you add other symbols after "et al.," like commas or brackets, always put the dot first. For example, write "(Phillips et al., 2013)" instead of "(Phillips et al, 2013)".
  • Finish with one dot: When "et al." is at the end of a sentence, use only one dot. Don't use two dots like this: "et al.."
  • Use the comma right: If there's a list of names before "et al.," use a comma before "et al." But if there's only one name, don't use a comma.

Correct: "Wood, Mark, et al."

Incorrect: "Wood, et al."

  • Write it the same way every time: Use the same style for "et al." every time you mention it. Don't switch between uppercase and lowercase letters.
  • Avoid using excessive use; use it only when necessary to avoid confusion.

Expert Tip

Explore more citation terms to ensure you can create and write references effortlessly without making errors. 

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Struggling with citations? PerfectEssayWriter.ai offers an easy-to-use Citation Machine designed to save time and headaches. No more worries about APA, MLA, or Chicago style – our tools handle it all. Just input your sources, and your citations are ready! 

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you write et al. in an email?

In an email, "et al." can be used similarly to how it's used in formal writing. It should be written as "et al." without italics or quotation marks, and it indicates the presence of additional recipients or contributors beyond those explicitly mentioned.

Is et al Grammatically correct?

No, et al without the period is not grammatically correct. The period is necessary to indicate it as an abbreviation. Always use et al. with the period in citations and written communication.

Is it professional to use et al.?

Yes, it's okay to use "et al." It helps shorten long lists of authors in citations, making them easier to read and understand. It's a common practice in professional and academic writing.

Cathy Aranda

WRITTEN BY

Cathy Aranda (Mass communication)

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

Cathy is a highly dedicated author who has been writing for the platform for over five years. With a Master's degree in Mass Communication, she is well-versed in various forms of writing such as articles, press releases, blog posts, and whitepapers. As an essay writing guide author at PerfectEssayWriter.ai, she has been helping students and professionals improve their writing skills by offering practical tips on research, citation, sentence structure, and style.

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