When to Use ‘Et al.: A Simple Guide to Using ‘Et al. As A Writer

If you think this word often used when referencing and citing authors ‘et al..’ doesn’t sound like an English word, you are absolutely right.

It is a Latin word!

Do you know the meaning and how to use et al. correctly?

All the answers you seek must be carefully explained in this article in an easy-to-read manner.

We took the pain to simplify the work for your reading pleasure.

What is the meaning of Et al.?

Et al., is a short form for et alia which means others.

It is a Latin word that is used in academic citations when referring to multiple authors.

Latin is commonly used in academic writing.

How and When to Use et al. in APA Style

The APA style is basically for social science publications.

APA style has different editions that use et al. differently.

Authors who are one in two have their names written in full.

In in-text citations, you can use et al. when there are three or more authors. After writing the name of the first author, you can use et al. to represent the other writers.

For example, a work written by John, Grace, and Greece in 2023 can be cited as John, et al., 2023

When it comes to referencing in APA style, the name of the first author is listed, then the next author can use the abbreviation.

For example, John, Grace, et al. (2023)

How to use et al. in MLA Style

For in-text citations, you use et al. when there are three or more authors, just like in APA style.  

Using our earlier example of a work written by John, Grace, and Greece in 2023, it can be cited as John et al. 2023.

If the authors are just two, you will write their names without adding et al.

When citing lists, write the name of the first author, followed by et al.

For instance, Smith, Jake, et al. New York Times (Title of the source), 2023 (year).

Using our earlier example of a work written by John, Grace, and Greece in 2023, it can be cited as John et al. 2023.

When to use et al. in Chicago Style

When citing sources using the Chicago style, it can be done in two ways, such as author date and footnotes. The way et al. is used in both styles is the same.

For Chicago style, et al. can only be used when there are four authors.

If the authors are three, they will be cited in this way;

As an author-date – (John, Grace, & Greece, 2023)

As a footnote – John Clement, Grace George, and Greece Ibueze, 2023

 An article that has four or more authors will be cited like this:

As author-date – John et al., 2023

As a footnote – John Clement et al.

When using the Chicago style in a bibliography section, if the source is up to ten authors, you will list all the authors. However, if there are more than ten authors, you will list only seven and then write et al.

For example, a bibliography of ten authors is written thus;

John, Clement, Grace, George, Greece, Charity, Ned, James, Ibueze, and Joan, 2023

But if the authors are eleven, it will be written in this manner;

John, Clement, Grace, George, Greece, Charity, Ned, et al., …

Punctuation Mistakes when using et al.

The common error when using et a. is the punctuation of it.

The correct punctuation has a period or full stop after the al and another punctuation like a comma after the full stop.

It is written this way;

Et al.,

Et al.

It is not written as;

Et al, Et. al, or Et al,

Common Mistakes to Avoid

Using it incorrectly: Et al. is not used for a single author. It is only used for citing the work done by multiple authors.

Including a few names: We have already mentioned that “et al.” is used to reduce the list of authors, however, you must include enough names that can be used to identify the source. As a general rule, if the names are fewer than four, list them all.

Inconsistent use of et al. in the same work: If you have started using the abbreviation, be sure to be consistent throughout the work.

Not using ‘et al.’ when necessary: When there are more than four authors for a work, use et al. to shorten it.

What is the Difference between et al. and etc?

Et al. is an abbreviation of the Latin word et alia, which means “others.” It is mostly used to indicate multiple authors in a work that is cited. As it is added, it signifies that there are more authors than the ones mentioned.

Etc. is the abbreviation for et cetera, which is also a Latin word that means “and others,” “and so forth.”

The main difference between et al., and etc is that the former is used for people, while the latter is used for things or animals.

For example, James et al. attended the event and bought food, drinks, etc.

From this example, it is obvious that there were more people with James and their activities ranged from attending events to going to buy food, drinks, and more things.

Another difference is that etc. can be used in both formal and informal situations but et al.., is used for only academic writing.

Et alibi, Et alii, and Others

There are other Latin phrases used in academic writing.

“Et alibi” means “and elsewhere” and is frequently used for sources whose reference has already been written elsewhere in the work. 

An instance is when a source is cited in one chapter and now referenced in another chapter. In the second citation, “et alibi” can be used rather than the complete citation.

Et alii, which refers to “and others,” can be used interchangeably with “et al.” However, “et alii” may also be used for people who are non-authors. 

For instance, “et alii” may refer to multiple people who are either members of the research team or participants in a given study.

Although the meanings of these terms are similar, they should not be used interchangeably. You should understand the context in which they are used to using them. 

FAQS on when to use et al.

What does “et al.” mean?

“Et al.” is an abbreviation of the Latin term “et alia,” which means “and others.” It’s used in citations to save space when there are many authors.

When should I use “et al.” in citations?

“Et al.” is used in APA in-text citations of sources with 3 or more authors.
Use “et al.” for 3 or more authors in MLA in-text citations and Works Cited entries.
Use “et al.” for 4 or more authors in a Chicago in-text citation, and 10 or more authors in a Chicago bibliography entry.


Et al. is a tool used for academic writing that makes the work concise by referencing and citing sources. It is used for the citation and referencing of a work that has multiple authors.