Home Guide English Vocabulary How to Use "Etc." Correctly

How to Use "Etc." Correctly

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Learn what it's used for. Etc. is used as a short way to say, "and so forth", "and so on", or "and other things", and is also used to describe a list without listing everything.

  • We could use cupcakes, cookies, etc. This shows that they can use any kind of dessert, and could be rewritten by, We could use cupcakes, cookies, and so on.
  • Learn the other possibilities of using etc. You could say, "and so on", but you could also write "..." Whichever way you use will serve the same purpose and will work.

Remember the spelling. You can say it either way, "Et Cetera", or "etc". Some other versions of etc. include et caetera, et cœtera or et coetera, but it's usual spelling can be etc. Remember exactly how it's spelled, because when it's misspelled, it can look very obvious and weird. Don't spell it, "ect" or "cet" or anything, although it can be spelled &e., &/c., or &ct. You don't need to learn all of these spellings, but choose one that you can rely on to use.

Work on the punctuation of it. At the end of "etc", there should be a period. That's obvious, right? However, when you still have more to say in the sentence, you should put a comma after the period. If you are finished with the sentence, end with that period, don't put anything else, but if you still have more to say, put a comma at the end and finish.

Learn how to put in the punctuation around it. Yes, you should put a period and a comma, but when you also work with semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points, etc. can be confusing. Here are a few examples:

  • Put a question mark after the period in "etc."
  • Put an exclamation point immediately after the period.
  • Put the semicolon in right after the period and put a space between it and the next word.
  • You do not need to put parenthesis around the things you are et cetera-ing. Just be sure to put a semicolon.

Know when to use it. In a formal writing, it may be more appropriate to use etc., and in everyday talk it may be okay as well, but if you don't know exactly how to use it, do not use it and stay on the safe side, so that people will not be utterly confused on what you mean. Know also, that you cannot use it if you are given a specific list of items that are needed.

  • If you only need cookies, cake, and donuts for the party, writing "cookies, cake, donuts, etc." will not be appropriate because it will give the reader the assumption that he can bring anything.

Tips

  • Use your best judgement when using etc. Sometimes, writing the words "and so on" or typing "..." can be more appropriate.
  • Pronounce it right. Many people pronounce it as "ECK set-er-uh" but the real pronunciation is "EHT set-er-uh."