Etc., Etc., Etc.

Whenever I see the abbreviation for et cetera (etc.), I think of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The King and I, where Yul Brynner repeated this Latin phrase three times in a most commanding way as the King of Siam.

But when I see the expression abbreviated as “ect.,” I cringe, as it reminds me of ectoplasm, and that’s a whole different movie (Ghostbusters).

Q: When should you use etc.?

A: When you mean “and others just like it” or “and so on and so forth.”

Example:

You should take Calculus in high school if you plan to be a petroleum engineer, mechanical engineer, chemical engineer, etc.

According to The Grammarist:

http://grammarist.com/usage/et-cetera-etc/

“Etc. is best reserved for times when (a) there is no question of what’s being omitted, or (b) when listing every item in a large group would be unnecessary.”

Q: When should you NOT use etc.?

A1: When referring to people; use et al., which means “and others.”

A2: When you have already used “for example” or “such as” or “e.g.” in the sentence.

Bad Examples:

For example, if the drill bit gets stuck or the mud motor dies, etc., we may take longer than two days.

He hates cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, etc.

The geosciences, e.g., geology, geophysics, etc., require a solid earth science background.

Just take the “etc.” out, and these three sentences are fine without it.

Other tips concerning etc.:

1)      Always put a period after the C, even when another punctuation mark follows, but do not put a second period if it is the last word of the sentence.

2)      Never use “&” or “and” before etc., as that would be repetitively redundant. The et of et cetera means “and” in Latin, so you would be saying “and and so forth.”

3)      Never use it more than once – etc., etc. – unless you are the King of Siam. That would also be repetitively redundant.

4)      Use a comma after etc. if it falls in the middle of the sentence.

Example:

Siltstone, wackestone, packstone, shale, etc., are types of sedimentary rocks.

Finally, knowing that et cetera literally means “and the rest” in Latin, we can sing the theme song to Gilligan’s Island as:

“With Gilligan, the Skipper, too, the millionaire and his wife, a movie star, etc., are here on Gilligan’s Isle.”

One Response to “Etc., Etc., Etc.”

  1. MakeYourEnglishWork (@MYEnglishWork) Says:

    Very informative and comprehensive analysis. I wish more writers would keep this in mind, especially ESL/EFL writers. We did a recent post on the topic if you want to check it out at http://www.makeyourenglishwork.com/2012/07/09/etc-usage-how-to-use-etc-correctly/

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