What Is “Et Al.” and How to Use It?
Perhaps bibliography writing is one of the least pleasant parts of paper writing. However, given that it is an integral part of any academic writing, students must always deal with it. Being a pro researcher or writer, the ‘et al’ application while complying with the reference list may not be a significant concern. However, most learners rarely involved in writing academic papers may feel confused and anxious about unknown abbreviations that are unlikely to meet in everyday speech.
Especially for this category of students, we share detailed guidelines with critical aspects and peculiarities.
Know What Does Et Al. Mean?
You must know its interpretation and origin to use the discussed abbreviation properly. So, what does et al mean? The Latin term ‘et alia’ is translated as ‘in addition’ and is typical for bibliography and citations. However, you must be careful with the requirements of referencing styles when enlisting several authors. It simplifies writing and eliminates long references since you do not have to mention all the writers whenever you mention the source.
Cases When to Use Et Al.
As a rule, it is used when you refer to words or scientific papers in your text and have to indicate the author. Nothing is challenging to write one last name in the parenthesis. However, what if there are three or more co-authors? Of course, you may know or quickly find all the names, but there is no need to enlist all if it is an in-text citation or bibliography. Note et al is relevant for cases when at least three authors are mentioned in a raw.
When to Use Et Al.: General Principles
Now, you know when to use et al, so it is high time to define how to use it. Note that since it is an abbreviation, you should never forget about a period at the end (et al.) You should also mention the author’s last name and year of publication. There are several tips for you to follow if you need to know whether you need this abbreviation.
- Define the number of authors. If there are three or more authors, you can use “et al” to refer to all the authors after mentioning the first one.
- Introducing the authors. If there are three to five authors, you should list all of them in your first in-text citation.
e.g., Smith, Herbert, James, and Catherine (2009).
However, use abbreviated names and et al in all the following citations.
e.g., Smith et al. (2009)
- Remember to include the full list in the bibliography. Provide the complete list of author’s names in the reference list or bibliography.
Pay attention that it is essential not only to know how to use et al but also consult the specific formatting style guide of the latest edition or requirements provided by your institution or publisher, as they may have variations or specific rules for using “et al” in citations.
Et Al. Citation Use
The et al citation in the text adheres to the above-mentioned rules. You must mention only the first author in the second, third, and all subsequent in-text citations. But what if you refer to the author who has issued several books in collaboration with others?
Let’s explore such cases in the examples. Suppose you refer to two different sources, and there are one or more similar co-authors:
e.g., Book by John Smith, Raynold Lee, Austine Anderson, and Tom Sheldon (2019)
e.g., Book by John Smith, Raynold Lee, Mary Anders, Kripke James, and Joyce Herbert (2019)
It will be incorrect to refer to both sources, mentioning only the first author, which may confuse your reader. In such a situation, you should act according to the particular standards. Cite the first source as:
- Smith, Lee, Anderson, and Sheldon (2019)
Refer to the second publication using Latin abbreviations.
- Smith, Lee, Anders, et al. (2019)
In the last sample, et al stands for two authors. Replacing one last name with a given abbreviation is impossible in the first sample.
Et Al. Citation APA Style
In APA style, the et al abbreviation indicates several authors for a source when citing within the text and in the reference list. Here are the rules for using the et al citation APA style:
- In-text citations: When citing a source with multiple authors for the first time, list all the authors’ names in your in-text citation. For subsequent citations of the same reference, use the initial author’s last name followed by “et al”
e.g., First citation: (Smith, Johnson, Anderson, et al., 2020)
e.g., Subsequent citations: (Smith et al., 2020)
- According to the last (7th) edition of APA formatting, if you deal with a reference list, include the names of all authors for sources with up to 20 authors. For sources with 20 or more authors, list the first 19 authors’ names, add an ellipsis (…) and the last author’s name.
e.g., 20 authors or more: Smith, J., Lee, A., Anderson, B., … Taylor, L. (2020).
Remember to follow and refer to the official APA Style Manual or the APA website for more specific guidelines and samples.
Et Al. Citation MLA Style
If in the instructions for your paper, you are to adhere to MLA, another formatting style, you must be aware of et al citation MLA requirements. Like in any other case, et al indicates the multiple authors of selected sources.
- In-text citations of sources with multiple authors for the first time, list all the authors’ names. For subsequent citations of the same source, use the first author’s last name followed by “et al”
e.g., First citation: (Smith, Johnson, Anderson, et al. 45)
e.g., Subsequent citations: (Smith et al. 45)
- In the bibliography, include the names of all authors for sources with up to three authors. For sources with four or more authors, list the first author’s last name followed by “et al”
e.g., Up to three authors: Smith, John, Title of Work. Publisher, 2020.
e.g., Four or more authors: Smith, John, et al. Title of Work. Publisher, 2020.
Be careful with the year of publication in in-text citations since you do not indicate the whole number, only the last two digits. Of course, if there are hesitations, you may consult an MLA style guide of the latest edition.
Et Al. Citation Chicago Style
If you face Chicago reference style in your writing, you should consider some differences between APA and MLA mentioned above. Of course, if there are over three authors, you must refer to et al citation Chicago rules. However, this style requires footnotes in citations.
- The in-text citation requires the last name of the initial author, plus et al, year of publication, and referred pages.
e.g., First citation: (Smith et al., 2019, 21-22)
e.g., Subsequent citations: (Smith et al., Pi, 30-33)
- In a bibliography, you should organize the used reference in the following way:
e.g., Smith, John. et al., Pi. 2019
In Chicago style, “et al” is used only in the in-text citations and not in the bibliography entry itself. The names of all authors must be listed in the bibliography.
Harvard Citation Et Al. Rules
As previously mentioned, styles et al in Harvard style stands for 3+ authors in the reference. But let’s have a look at the Harvard citation et al application.
- In-text citation rules are similar to those above and differ in whether you cite for the first time or subsequently.
e.g., First citation: (Smith, John, Anderson, et al., 2019)
e.g., Subsequent citations: (Smith et al., 2019)
- In the reference list, you must include the names of all authors for sources with up to three authors. For sources with four or more authors, list the first author’s last name followed by “et al”
e.g., Up to three authors: Smith, J., Johnson, A., Anderson, B., … Taylor, L. (2019).
e.g., Four or more authors: Smith, J., Johnson, A., Anderson, B., … Taylor, L., et al. (2020).
There is also a Harvard-style manual that you may consult to avoid mistakes and have more examples.
Et Al. Usage ― General Rules
If you want to organize the list of resources according to the writing standards, you need to follow your tutor’s or publisher’s formatting style requirements. In addition, it will not be superfluous to know that et al usage is possible in both formal and informal styles. Moreover, the key principles of et al punctuation and its application in different work types require additional attention.
Et Al. Punctuation
The rules of et al punctuation mainly depend on your citation style. You may find detailed samples above. But it is also worth considering such core principles:
- Correct to write (et al.);
- If you put et al at the end of the sentence, there is no need to add an extra period;
- Add a comma after et al if the sentence is not over.
Do not neglect punctuation since it matters.
Et Al. in Research Papers
Always adhere to the latest edition of the required citation style for in-text citation and bibliography to properly use et al in research papers. But when incorporating the authors’ names into your sentence, you can use “et al” after the first author’s name.
e.g., According to Smith et al. (2020), the research found that…
The rules reference list organization depends on the formatting style.
Et Al. in Legal Documents
Legal documents often follow specific citation styles, such as the Bluebook or the jurisdiction-specific citation guides. These guides may provide specific rules for using et al in legal documents. Consult the appropriate citation style guide for specific instructions.
When citing a legal case or official document with multiple parties or authors, you can use “et al” to indicate additional parties beyond the first-named party.
e.g., Smith et al. v. John et al.
e.g., Section 5 of the Employment Act et al.
Note that legal documents may have specific conventions and citation requirements.
Et Al. in Scientific Writing
Using et al in scientific writing involving multiple authors is common. For subsequent citations, after listing all authors’ names in the first citation. It helps to avoid excessive repetition of names and maintain readability.
Et Al. in Academic Writing: Things to Consider
Since academic writing demands referencing credible resources and a bibliography list, some crucial things may be confusing when using et al in academic writing.
Using “et al” consistently throughout your academic writing is important. Once you have established the proper formatting of et al when referring to a specific source, continue using it for subsequent citations. There are also some points requiring attention.
Using Et Al. in Informal Manner
Using et al in common language and informal situations has a right for existence. You may apply the abbreviation when writing emails mentioning a group of people or mates, etc. For instance, when there are too many names to mention, you may replace some with et al, but you should be confident that the ‘hidden’ names will be easily understood. Suppose you speak about your group mates and name two people, replacing the rest with et al
e.g., Tom, Mike, et al. attended yesterday’s conference.
Et Al. vs Etc.
You may mistakenly consider et al vs etc to be interchangeable. However, there are some differences.
- et al is common for academic writings, especially citing and bibliography. In addition, the abbreviation refers to additional authors or contributors when citing a source with multiple authors.
- is not recommended for official or academic writing and often indicates that more items, examples, or possibilities could be listed but are not explicitly mentioned.
Rules of Author Et Al. Application
We mentioned many basic rules of the et al application when listing more than four authors in in-text citations. But for some students, it may seem confusing which one to mention. If you have four or more co-authors and it is not the first citation, you must write the last name in the author et al format. Remember, there should be no author from the list, only the first.
What Are Et Al. Alternatives?
There are several options for et al alternatives to use in academic writing:
- List all the authors;
- Use ‘and colleagues;’
- Use “and others” or “and co-authors.”
Remember to consult the specific citation style guidelines recommended by your institution or the style guide you are using.
If you know the et al meaning and usage rules, there must be no challenges in correctly mentioning the authors you refer to in your writing. Do not forget to refer to the last edition of the required referencing style, follow the punctuation, and consider the number of authors.
Within this manual, you have gained insights into the utilization of “et al.” It is now clear that “et al.” originates from the Latin term “et alia,” signifying “and others.” Additionally, you have become acquainted with the regulations governing the usage of “et al.” You’ve also observed its application across various referencing styles in in-text citations and bibliographies. “Et al.” is a valuable abbreviation that alleviates the burden of enumerating all individuals you wish to reference.