The Guide On How to Use Et Al in Writing

Learning About Et Al Meaning

The Latin phrase "et alia" or "Et al." in writing is nothing new to anyone engaged in the academic field. It stands for "and others" in English. It is used when you have more than three authors in certain cases like APA format or more than five authors (for MLA citations). Here is how et al in a sentence example usually looks like as you implement it in writing: 

Jackson et al. (2020) believe that the consequences of global warming might be relevant... 

As you might have guessed, only the first author’s last name has been used for in-text reference as the rest is noted with the Latin phrase. Remember that certain style formats will have their own cases when “et al.” must be used. 

Explanation of the Origin and Purpose

"Et al." is derived from the Latin phrase "et alia," meaning "and others." It is used in academic writing to abbreviate the list of authors of a work, promoting conciseness and readability. The purpose of "et al." is to simplify citations, especially in cases where a source has multiple authors, without omitting credit to contributors. It streamlines the in-text citations, making the text less cluttered and more reader-friendly, while ensuring that readers can refer to the full list of authors in the bibliography or reference list.

The Punctuation Rules 

Regarding the punctuation rules, you should always include a period when typing "et al.". It means that we are dealing with a classic case of abbreviation, which is why the only correct way to deal with your citation is "et al." with a full stop before the comma. See the example: 

(Burns et al., 2015) 

There are also occasions when you have to use your source reference at the end of some sentence. Here is how to use et al for such a scenario: 

It has been a thought-provoking idea that has resulted in a fruitful discussion, as noted by Burnaby et al. 

Remember, "et al." element in your text is not the same as "et cetera", which stands for a totally different purpose. For example: 

Jones et al. (2010) discuss how the sound generation elements are being shaped (waveforms, transwaves, particles, etc.) in the modern methods of synthesis both in hardware and software. 

It makes it essential to learn when et al. is applicable before proceeding with the specifics of writing style formats that you can see below. 

When "Et Al" Part Must Be Used For College Papers 

Generally, et al usage is needed when there are more than three or five authors that must be mentioned. It is obligatory to use for in-text citations so that your text is comfortable for reading. As for the Works Cited or References page, you must provide up to 10 or up to 20 authors in full, depending on style. 

How to Use Et Al In Different Styles + Examples 

  • APA Style Format 

APA makes it totally clear as to how many authors to use et al. It states that your in-text citation must use it only when you have more than three authors for a source. 

For example, when you have two authors, it will result in: 

(Stipe & Buck, 2000)

When you have more than three authors: 

(McDermott et al., 2020) 

Note that the APA manual suggests that your references list should not have an "et al." part because you must list up to 20 authors. If you have more than twenty authors for some research source, list only the first nineteen authors and then place (...): 

McFly, R., Davisson, N., Sanders, R., Clusters, J., Dumble, E., King, A., Staples, S., Mills, J., Grills, R., Manticore, L., LaBrie, S., Thiago, M., Smith, V., Dubrowski, J., James, S., Dauber, K., Tomlin, I., Benz, R., Geraghty, P., … Pilster, R.

If you plan on using APA 6 edition, note that it is used only for 6+ authors with the same writing rules. If it sounds confusing, you can always approach APA 7th edition citation generator and get all these issues handled automatically! 

  • MLA Rules 

According to the latest MLA guide, "et al." is used only when you have more than three authors. Follow this example for your in-text citation: 

(Berry et al.) 

For works cited entry, it will be: 

Berry, Mills, et al. 

  • Chicago Rules 

Chicago Citation Manual states that you should add an "et al." element only when you have more than 4 authors. 

  • Footnote example: 

- ​1James Smith et al., ... 

  • Author-date pattern citation of et al in a sentence: 

Smith et al., ... 

It is also necessary to mention up to 10 authors on your Bibliography page. If you have more than ten authors, only the first seven individuals are listed, then "et al." part is added. 

  • Turabian Rules 

According to the latest Turabian guide, "et al." is used in bibliographic entries when a source has more than three authors, but it is not commonly used in the footnotes or endnotes. Here’s how you should structure your citations:

For footnotes or endnotes, you would typically list all the authors:

John Berry, Tim Mills, Sarah Waters, and Emily Johnson, Studies in Environmental Science (New York: Academic Press, 2023), 45-46.

For bibliographic entries, "et al." is used after the first author’s name when there are four or more authors:

Berry, John, et al. Studies in Environmental Science. New York: Academic Press, 2023.

  • Harvard Rules 

The Harvard manual states that "et al." should be used when you have four or more authors. Here is how it looks in writing (notice the italics): 

(Surname of the first author et al., Year of publication) 

"It means that brain screening of the criminals has been done with the help of AI-based instruments that cannot provide a precise accuracy" (King et al., 2009). 

When dealing with the reference list: 

First author's name, Initial. et al. (Year Published) 'Article title', Name of Journal, Volume (Issue), pp. 00-00. 

Frowijn, L. et al. (2021) 'Brain Screening Techniques', Applied Psychiatry, 267(4412), pp. 34-39. 

Detailed Explanation of Incorrect Usage

Incorrect usage of "et al." often stems from a misunderstanding of the rules governing its application across various citation styles. One common mistake is using "et al." with fewer than the required number of authors, which varies depending on the citation style. For instance, applying "et al." when a work has only two authors in styles where it’s reserved for three or more authors. Another error is the incorrect placement or formatting of "et al.," such as not italicizing the "et" or neglecting the following period. Misusing "et al." in this way can lead to confusion and compromise the credibility of the academic work.

Conclusion: Mastering the Use of "Et Al."

Navigating the subtleties of "et al." is a crucial aspect of proficient and ethical academic writing. Understanding its origin, purpose, and the nuanced rules of its application across various citation styles is fundamental. Armed with this knowledge, you can enhance the clarity and professionalism of your citations, ensuring that your academic work is presented with the precision and rigor it deserves.

We encourage you to revisit these guidelines as you engage in academic writing, ensuring that your use of "et al." aligns with best practices. Remember, correct citation is a cornerstone of academic integrity, reflecting the diligence and credibility of your scholarly contributions.

Feel free to explore further, seek additional resources, and practice consistently to hone your citation skills. Learning how to use 'et al.' correctly in your citations can be tricky, but with assignment help online, you can get the support you need to ensure your references are properly formatted. Your journey towards mastering the art of citation is a valuable investment in your academic excellence and integrity.

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