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November 10, 2009


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Lester Smith

Although I'm not so sure about reason one, reason two is justification enough to avoid "et al." in a greeting.

In the list of safer choices, might I suggest "Greetings, everyone" rather than "Greetings, everybody"? It's purely a matter of sound--three syllables instead of four; and a nice, round vowel in the last, instead of all those long e's--but such small choices add up.

Mike Consol

Right on, Lynn. Keep it understandable -- AND more personal.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Lester. I agree with you about "Greetings, everyone." It sounds much better than my "Greetings, everybody."

Regarding the meaning of the Latin abbreviation, I will ask the next 10 or 20 people I talk with what it means. Watch for a future blog entry on the subject.



One quibble about the proper use of et al. I'm pretty sure you do not want to use et al. in a bibliography or reference list. Those are the places where you want to spell everything out in detail. Instead, you use it in a footnote or in-text citation within the main text. This is how both the Chicago and APA style books have it. If you're writing that type of document, check the specific style guide your organization is using to make sure about this.

On the topic of the post itself, I totally agree. Et al. doesn't belong in a greeting.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Joseph, thanks for the quibble about the bibliography. It makes perfect sense. I am not in the same building with my reference books at the moment, so I will accept your comment as correct without having my bookshelf bless it.

I appreciate the correction.



My company's writing stylebook bans all Latin abbreviations. People often don't know what they mean, or they confuse meanings, thinking that e.g. means i.e., for example. And etc. is just a lazy way of writing. Besides, the English language offers many suitable substitutes.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Diane, thanks for commenting. I do occasionally use "etc." as a clearly understood abbreviation. I will think about whether I should continue using it.


Pellet Mill

they confuse meanings, thinking that e.g. means i.e., for example. And etc. is just a lazy way of writing. Besides, the English language offers many suitable substitutes.


I disagree with the first reason. I feel standards should never be determined based on the lowest levels of knowledge or understanding. In this instance the unfamiliarity of et al. should not be seen as a reason to abandon use.

In consideration of etc., I do find this to be appropriate (not lazy) in many instances. For example, when sending a message it should be considered appropriate to list etc. when not all factors are yet known. If the sentence is "Please be prepared to discuss how your department can help support the organization's efforts either by a, b, or c etc." to list etc. indicates to the reader that the list of options is not limited to those mentioned and that other ideas are welcome during the discussion but are not yet realized.

Lynn Gaertner-Johnston

Hi, Jones. Thanks for your view.

In business writing, I do my best to avoid using language that people do not understand. If they don't understand it, they won't understand my message, and communication is my goal.

I agree that the abbreviation "etc." can be useful to replace the phrase "and so on." If it does not work as a replacement for "and so on," I do not recommend using it.

Of course, "etc." and "and so on" do not fit in a greeting because they are too impersonal.


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