Sunday, August 14, 2016

Travel, punctuation, etc.

I'm on a road trip this weekend, so for tonight, I've renewed an old post. (The original post is here, if you're the sort of person who likes to see what has been changed.)

This allows me to:

  1. Point you to a cute, new Grammarly article that goes into further detail about the difference between et al. and etc.;
  2. Have an excuse to remind you that hearth/myth Editorial Services are available to serve your editorial needs (click here for more info); and
  3. Get out of writing a whole new post while avoiding yet another reuse of my On Vacation graphic. You're welcome.


    Not many indie authors use the abbreviations etc. and et al. -- but I do see them at work. Et al., particularly, is used in formal writing. But just so we're on the same page, punctuation-wise, I thought I'd explain a few things about them.

    First, et al. means "and others." Et is the Latin word for "and." It's not an abbreviation. Okay? So it doesn't ever get a period after it. That would be like putting a period after "and" every time you use it in a sentence.

    The al. part of et al. is, however, an abbreviation -- for alii (masculine plural), aliae (feminine plural), and/or alia (neuter plural). I'm not going to try to explain masculine/feminine/neuter nouns here; suffice it to say that Latin has 'em (as does Czech, by the way). As English speakers, all we really need to be concerned with is that al. is an abbreviation and et is not. So the proper way to punctuate the phrase is like so:
    et al.
    Clear so far? Excellent.

    So now, clever thing that you are, you have recognized that the first two letters of etc. are the same as good old et that we just talked about. And you're correct. In Latin, etc. is short for et cetera, which means "and the rest" or "and other things."

    "So how come," you are now going to ask me, "etc. gets slammed together into one word and et al. doesn't?"

    Good question, and the answer is probably similar to how, in English, "has not" turned into hasn't and "I am" turned into I'm: etc. is a contraction. Typesetters, who liked to save a space anywhere they could, dropped the space in et c. at some point, and etc. eventually became common usage.

    Got that? Et al. is a two-word abbreviation with no period after etetc. is a one-word abbreviation that gets a period. Good. Okay.

    Now. There's one more sticky thing about these two, and it comes up when you stick them in the middle of a sentence. They take commas on both sides. If you have a phrase like "the rain, the park, and other things make me very happy," and you want to replace and other things with etc. to save space, you need a comma both before and after etc. Like so:

    The rain, the park, etc., make me very happy.

    Don't be tempted to forget that second comma. Just like with a quote or some parenthetical material, you need to mark off the end of the Latin you've just inserted. Hence, the closing comma.

    Okay? Cool. Here's your reward for suffering through this post. Have a great week, everyone.

    These moments of bloggy renewal have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

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