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How Do I Punctuate Et Al?

By Judy Vorfeld

If you do much read­ing, or are in cer­tain pro­fes­sions, you not only come across the expres­sion et al., but know what it means. Et al. used to be used just in the U.S. in legal doc­u­ments, but for many years it’s been used in most bib­li­ogra­phies as well. And other places.

It’s used, says Wikipedia, sim­i­larly to et cetera (“and the rest”), to stand for a list of names.

According to Chicago Manual of Style, 5.220, you say et al. with a period fol­low­ing “al.” This is the abbre­vi­ated form of et alii (“and oth­ers”); the oth­ers are peo­ple, not things. Since al. is an abbre­vi­a­tion, the period is required.

Tip: (6.20) says et al. stands for et alia (neut.), et alii (mas­cu­line), and et aliae (fem­i­nine). Also, no need to ital­i­cize et al. in nor­mal prose.


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