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Wednesday, November 9, 2016

EwR Commentary - SUMMARY: The Expendable Use of the Word "Et cetera" (Etcetera or Etc.)


There are many people who use the abbreviation "etc." for the word "etcetera" in their writing.  Some people even use this word during speech.  Are you one of those people who uses the word "etcetera" all the time?  Have you ever asked yourself why you do it?  Maybe after you read this you will never use this word again.  In order to contemplate why you might hesitate to use either the word "etcetera" or its abbreviation "etc.", let's reflect upon the three following relevant pieces of information: (1) the origin, definition and usage of the word "etcetera"; (2) the reason why so many people use this word and its abbreviation; and (3) alternatives that exist in order to avoid using the word "etcetera" (etc.).

All things considered, and as you can see from the previous examples given in Parts 1, 2 and 3 of this article, it is absolutely unnecessary to use the word "etcetera" in speech and the abbreviation "etc." in writing. They are both completely expendable.  It is of the utmost importance to communicate as clearly as possible in order to prevent confusion and misunderstanding, not only for native people, but also for second language users of English.

Maybe now you will hesitate to use either the word "etcetera" ("et cetera") or its abbreviation "etc." when you are communicating with others.  Remind yourself to think clearly before speaking to someone or writing something down on paper whenever you list items that belong to a particular category.  Keep your list of examples short enough so that it expresses precisely what is included in the category that you want to communicate to someone.  It's not necessary to list all of them.  Only mention three or four items at the most and you won't need to use the word "etcetera" or its abbreviation.  People are not interested in guessing each and every item on your entire list when you use "etcetera" or "etc."  They want you to specify what's on your list, since you are the one who knows that information.  Therefore, avoid using "et cetera" and its abbreviation.

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