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CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 70: Know Your Abbreviations in English II

etc., NB, et al.

A warm welcome to this week’s lesson. Thank you for all the likes and nice feedback you send us after each post; we give us a reason to keep doing this.

This week, we would like to continue our lesson on common abbreviations and how to properly use them when writing in English. Last week, we looked at e.g., i.e. and [sic] and you can check it out at https://charismataediting.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/know-your-abbreviations-in-english-i/  This week, we look at three other common abbreviations: etc., NB and et al.


  1. Etc.: One of my all-time favourites because I realise a lot of people get the pronunciation wrong. And of course you will if you try to use the abbreviated form to help you pronounce the full word; you will be pronouncing etecera instead of et cetera.

This is another Latin word (yes, you guessed right!) and it is used (just like e.g.) to indicate that there are more examples of the items you are listing. Et cetera [etsetera] in other words is ‘and so on and so forth’.

  • The students were asked to return to the school the following day with any cooking utensils they could find: pans, ladles, knives, cutlery etc.
  • We interviewed hawkers, restaurant owners, bankers etc. when we were asked to conduct our opinion polls in the region.

It is important to note that because of the sameness of meaning of e.g. and etc., it is improper to use both within the same list. Therefore, the following sentence would be incorrect:

Castor oil has many health benefits; eg, it can treat dandruff, remove stretch marks, treat colic in babies etc. (e.g. means the list is not exhaustive so need telling us at the end again that the list is not exhaustive!)

  1. NB: This one is rather simple. NB is used to show that a piece of information is very important and attention must be paid to it by the reader. For example, after a job advertisement by a company, you are likely to see:

NB: Applications received after the deadline will NOT be considered.

This is how the writer puts emphasis on the information he/she deems important. It is of Latin origin and is fully rendered Nota Bene (which means Note Well).

  1. Et al.: (Et alia) This is how it is written with one period after the al. You probably would not have met this abbreviation until it was time for you to prepare an academic research of sorts or something that required reference to books.

Though it has other minor uses, the major use of this Latin word is to indicate that there are other authors to a particular work (but time and space will not allow you to list all). You can even use it to show that the report you and your friends prepared has too many contributors to all be listed.

Two things to note in research: i. you need to mention the names of all the authors of a book/article the first time it appears in your work; but after that, you are free to list just one author and then add et al.    ii. you can only use et al. when the authors are more than two.

This article on workplace behaviour was written by Jarmain et al. (Meaning Jarmain and other people wrote the article)

“How Teachers Make Children Hate Reading.” The Norton Reader, 13th Edition. Ed. Linda Peterson, et al. New York: W.W. Norton, 2012. 195-203

NB: The main difference between etc. and et al. is that while etc. is used when listing things, et al. is used when listing people.

Catch you soon. Leave your comments below on what you thought about this lesson (and indeed other lessons). Thanks for reading and sharing.

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