Apr 6, 2011

Et Cetera

(Courtesy of Rae Grimm)
When’s the last time you saw Et cetera spelled out in text?  Many of you will likely say never.  It’s common enough that we all say it, but most are probably more comfortable with the abbreviated version – etc.

The Latin Et cetera is defined – and others, and so forth, meaning more of the same thing.  If writing a list, you might mention two or three items, followed by etc. to note that there are other things that could be on that list, but you don’t want to bore the reader further.

For instance, if mentioning your favorite trees, you might phrase it that you like the flowering trees, such as dogwood, redbud, cherry blossom, etc. While there are other flowering trees, there’s no need to mention every one of them in a general conversation, so the abbreviation etc. tells the reader that you like not only those trees mentioned, but others in that same category.

I looked up etc. on several online dictionaries as well as Webster’s print version and all pointed to Et cetera rather than providing a definition of its own, so should you use the abbreviation or spell out Et cetera in the written word?  It depends on what you are writing and how formal you want the piece to be.   Since etc. is a very common abbreviation it’s certainly acceptable to use, but if writing a more formal missive, throw an Et cetera out there to impress your reader.  

With the English language being butchered by the advent of texting, tweeting, et cetera., it’s refreshing to see a bit of formality brought back into the written word.  I dare you to use Et cetera in place of etc. when next you have occasion to use the term.  

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Copyright 2011 Marie Anne St. Jean


  1. Nice! The language has definitely taken a beating in the past few years. Even some of my 'mature' friends now like to use z in place of s, seem to think that grammar is old-fashioned, and though college educated, think it's cute to say things like, "I haz the sad" when they are feeling blue.

  2. Et Cetera always makes me think of Yul Brynner as the King Of Siam.

  3. I like this post, this blog, your other blogs, your writing style, et cetera.

  4. Fun E-topic for today!

    It really bugs me when people say "eck-setra" all the time. But I shouldn't assume people will say it right when, like you said, we rarely spell it out.

  5. When I see "Et cetera" spelled out I think of "The King and I" and "et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. I see that Tony Payne (in the comments) also agrees with me!

    I ultimately think language is transitory and try not to get too caught up in comparing what was to what is.

    Many English people think we Americans slaughter the English language every time we open our mouths or type while an 18th century English writer would probably say the same thing about the way present day English people speak and write.

  6. what a fascinating post MA. Love it! This blogging challenge is turning out to be great fun!

  7. In informal writing it's ok to write etc. I've noticed in books often it is spelled out (and yes it does look so weird doesn't it?)

  8. I say et cetera, et cetera, et cetera all the time :) But I'm weird. Awesome info about the word.

  9. Would love to see a final list of all the words bloggers chose to use for their A-Z challenge. I'll bet none of the other ones chose Et Cetera. And you're right – it's nice to see some formality instead of all those insane abbreviations I can never figure out.

  10. Good point. I now feel the need to use et cetera in a post instead of etc. Given, spell checker apparently doesn't like it. Good luck with the A to Z Challenge!