LawProse Lesson #134: Punctuating around “e.g.,” “i.e.,” “etc.,” and “et al.”

LawProse Lesson #134: Punctuating around “e.g.,” “i.e.,” “etc.,” and “et al.”

How should you punctuate around the common Latin abbreviations e.g., i.e., etc., and et al.? With e.g. (= for example) and i.e. (= that is), the usual convention in AmE is to precede it with a comma or a dash, and invariably to follow it with a comma {He trades in farm commodities, e.g., corn and sorghum.} {He trades in farm commodities — e.g., corn and sorghum.}. In BrE, it’s commonly done a little differently. These abbreviations sometimes have no internal periods and are usually preceded — but not followed — by a comma {He trades in farm commodities, eg corn and sorghum.}.      With etc. (= and other things) and et al. (= and other people), the main question is whether to precede them with a comma. In AmE, the usual convention is to do so. In effect, because etc. is the abbreviation for et cetera (et meaning “and”), the comma before the abbreviation is simply the serial comma when more than one item is listed {corn, wheat, sorghum, etc.}. The question that arises is whether a comma should precede a list with only one explicit element. That is, should you write He traded in corn etc. or He traded in corn, etc.? The two leading authorities essentially agree. According to The Chicago Manual of Style, etc. “is preceded and (unless it ends a sentence) followed by a comma when it is the final item in a series.” The Oxford Guide to Style says (more explicitly) that etc. is “preceded by a comma if it follows more than one listed item: robins, sparrows, etc., [vs.] robins etc.The Chicago Manual also says that et al. doesn’t require a preceding comma if it “follows a single item” {Taylor et al.}. Two warnings about etc. and et al. First, don’t ever write *and etc. because etc. itself includes and. Second, never put a period after the first word in et al. because et is a complete Latin word meaning and — it’s not an abbreviation. But always put a period after al because it’s the abbreviation for the different forms of the Latin word meaning others (alii, alius, alia, or aliae). Two final notes. First, if an abbreviation ends a sentence, don’t put a second period. The abbreviation’s period doubles as the sentence’s closing full stop. But if the end punctuation is an exclamation mark or question mark, then include the abbreviation’s period and the end mark (see this lesson’s heading above). Second, don’t italicize any of these abbreviations unless you are referring to them as words, as we are here. There’s more to be said about these abbreviations. Etc., etc., etc. Sources: Garner’s Modern American Usage 295, 319-20, 436, 680 (3d ed. 2009). Garner’s Dictionary of Legal Usage 308,. 330-31, 420, 733 (3d ed. 2011). The Chicago Manual of Style § 6.20, at 313 (16th ed. 2010). R.M. Ritter, The Oxford Guide to Style § 3.8, at 69-70 (2002). Thanks to Brad Smelser and Butch Bradt for suggesting this topic.

Live seminars this year with Professor Bryan A. Garner: Advanced Legal Writing & Editing

Attend the most popular CLE seminar of all time. More than 215,000 people—including lawyers, judges, law clerks, and paralegals—have benefited since the early 1990s. You'll learn the keys to professional writing and acquire no-nonsense techniques to make your letters, memos, and briefs more powerful.

You'll also learn what doesn't work and why—know-how gathered through Professor Garner's unique experience in training lawyers at the country's top law firms, state and federal courts, government agencies, and Fortune 500 companies.

Professor Garner gives you the keys to make the most of your writing aptitude—in letters, memos, briefs, and more. The seminar covers five essential skills for persuasive writing:

  • framing issues that arrest the readers' attention;
  • cutting wordiness that wastes readers' time;
  • using transitions deftly to make your argument flow;
  • quoting authority more effectively; and
  • tackling your writing projects more efficiently.

He teaches dozens of techniques that make a big difference. Most important, he shows you what doesn't work—and why—and how to cultivate skillfulness.

Register to reserve your spot today.

Have you wanted to bring Professor Garner to teach your group? Contact us at for more information about in-house seminars.

Scroll to Top