How to Correctly Use the Term ‘Etc.’ in Your Writing
  • 3-minute read
  • 23rd January 2022

How to Correctly Use the Term ‘Etc.’ in Your Writing

Etc. is the abbreviation of the Latin term et cetera, which means and the rest or and other things like that. People often make mistakes with etc., so in this post, we’ll guide you through the rules to follow when using this term in your writing.

When Should You Use Etc.?

Etc. is used to indicate that a list is not complete:

She enjoys all kinds of sports – running, tennis, swimming, etc.
I am trying to give up cakes, chocolate, sweets, etc.

In the first example, the category of items in the list (sports) is specified. The second sentence doesn’t define the category, but the things named in the list make it clear that it refers to unhealthy foods. Both of these uses of etc. are correct.

When Should You Avoid Etc.?

Etc. should not be used in the following situations:

●  When there isn’t a clear connection between the listed items:

I am trying to give up cakes, chocolate, online shopping, etc.

Etc. doesn’t work here because the link between the things listed is not obvious enough. Remember that etc. means and similar things, so if the similarity isn’t clear, you shouldn’t use etc.

●  When you have mentioned every possible item in the list:

It was cold outside, so she put on her coat, hat, gloves, scarf, etc.

There is no need for etc. in this sentence because readers would find it difficult to think of anything to add to this list.

●  When you have introduced the list with “e.g.,”for instance,” or something similar:

Quentin Tarantino has directed some great movies, e.g., Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, etc.

Etc. is redundant here because the use of e.g., meaning for example, indicates that the list is incomplete. You could remove either e.g. or etc. to make the sentence correct.

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●  When you are introducing a list of people:

The Beatles (John Lennon, Paul McCartney, etc.) recorded over 200 songs.

If you are referring to a group of humans, you should use et al. rather than etc.

●  When you’ve used it once already:

I’m fed up with polishing, dusting, vacuuming, etc., etc.!

One etc. at a time is always enough!

How Do You Punctuate Etc.?

In American English, etc. always has a period. However, if it comes at the end of a sentence, you don’t need to add another one:

We grew herbs in the garden – oregano, thyme, etc.

But if a question mark or exclamation point is required, you should include this as well as the period:

Do you want lettuce, cucumber, tomato, etc.?

You should always place a comma before etc. (i.e., after the last item in the list), but you don’t usually need a comma after etc.:

Do you want lettuce, cucumber, tomato, etc. in your sandwich?

Summary: How to Use ‘Etc.’

Etc. is used to show that a list is not exhaustive. Because it means and other similar things, you should only use it when it will be obvious to the reader what other things the list could infer. Moreover, you should never use etc. if you have already indicated that the list is incomplete (e.g. by using for example or such as).

To avoid misusing etc. and other Latin terms (et al., viz., etc.), it’s always worth having your writing proofread by a professional. At Proofed, our team is available around the clock (i.e., a.m. and p.m.!), so we can return your work within 24 hours. Try us out for free today!

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