Can the Latin abbreviation et al. be used at the end of the greeting in an email? It would look like this:
Dear John et al.,
Hello, Kimia et al.
A reader whom I will call Doug wrote to ask that question. What is your answer for Doug?
The expression et al., which is always followed by a period, stands for "and others." So the greetings above would mean:
Dear John and others,
Hello, Kimia and others.
Sorry, Doug. I am voting no–for several reasons:
- Many people do not know the meaning of et al., so using it will confuse readers.
- Dear and hello are warm, positive words. Et al., the abbreviation of et alii, is about as friendly as a flu shot. They don't fit well together.
- The use of et al. is not standard in greetings, so people will stumble over it, wondering whether they missed an important new rule somewhere.
- Writers using the unusual greeting will worry about how to punctuate after it, and their readers will spend time questioning whatever punctuation choice the writers make. In fact, Doug wrote, "I do not use a comma or colon after the period in al. as I feel it looks awkward." My grammar and spelling checker seemsto think so too. Yet in the United States and Canada, we include punctuation after a greeting.
For those wondering about the rightful place of et al., it is in footnotes and citations. For example, in a bibliography, rather than listing five authors of a scientific paper, we can list the first author's name and then use et al. for the remaining four authors. Et al. always refers to people–not things.
Doug was suggesting the use of et al. to avoid greeting a list of people. He is wise to avoid a salutation like this:
Dear John, Joseph, Kayla, Nadia, and Robert,
A list like that makes readers wonder about the order of names. By coincidence, it is alphabetical, but is it hierarchical too? Is the director's name first? Last?
Here are safer choices:
Dear John and team members,
Dear Chamber members,
Hello, Marketing team.
That is my view of et al. and greetings. Do you agree?