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Et al.

Latin phrases play a big part in American law. One of the most common of which you are likely to come across is "et al.".

This short abbreviated Latin expression is of great use to people working with formal documents and academic texts and knowing how to use it can be highly beneficial. In this article we explain:

  • What et al. means
  • How it should be written
  • What legal documents it might appear in

What Does Et Al. Mean?

Et al. is a Latin expression which is a shortened form of et alia, which means “and others”. It allows writers of academic and legal forms and contracts to mention a collaborative work or the interests of several people in a space-saving truncated form.

It is very similar in many ways to “etc.” However, etc. (which is a short form of et cetera, meaning “and the rest) is commonly used to indicate a list of things or objects rather than people. If you need to refer to a group of individuals et al. is your best choice.

How to Write Et Al.

Et al. is normally written at the end of a bibliographic list of authors or named individuals on an academic paper, document, or contract. It will appear after the last written name in a list of 3 or more authors or individuals.

It should appear with a comma in front of it (as it is part of a list of names) and with a period at the end to denote that there is an abbreviation being used.

For example: Smith, Johnson, Klein, et al.

When to Use Et Al.

Et al. shouldn’t be used at all if you’re listing just two authors or individuals. However, if you have to list more than five people you can name the whole group in the first citation and then use the first person’s name and et al. for all further mentions.

If for any reason you have to cite more than 6 names you can just write the first author or individual’s name and et al. for each and every mention.

The most common place you may see et al. being used is in an academic citation. However, it can also be used on legal documents too where multiple individuals in a single party must be noted.

The legal meaning of et al. is broadly the same in both situations, in that it also is used to reference a large group of people. In this case, however, rather than denoting authorship it suggests a vested interest.

You’ll often find et al. used in important legal papers and documents such as real estate deeds or records where multiple people own a property. However, it may also be commonly seen on:

  • Court records
  • Property deeds
  • Property tax bills