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Q&A: Research paper: Comma after "etc." at the end of a sentence

Is it correct to use comma after etc., at the end of the sentence in American style of English? What if it is a research paper? Example: Various technologies like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc.?

4 Answers

Many non-native English authors face challenges while writing a research paper. In this short post, we will discuss a punctuation-related query many authors have.

"Etc." is used to indicate that only some of the items from a list have been used. Generally, in American English, if "etc." is used in the middle of a sentence, it is followed by a comma. (Tennis, soccer, baseball, etc., are outdoor games.) However, if this word appears at the end of a sentence then the period (which is part of "etc.") serves as the final punctuation mark. It should not be followed by a comma, whether it is daily writing or a research paper. (Being outdoors, we played tennis, soccer, baseball, etc.)
 

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There is nothing special about "etc.", it is just a normal English abbreviation (of "et cetera") and should be treated as such.

As an abbreviation it should always have a trailing period(*), although this is commonly omitted in the middle of a sentence in informal writing (email).  The abbreviation period combines with the end-of-sentence period (to become just a single period), but is used in addition with any other punctuation.

(*) Abbreviations always have a trailing period in US English.  In non-US English, abbreviations have a trailing period if the last letter of the abbreviation is not the same as the last letter of the expanded word/phrase. (So "Street" -> "St." in US; "St" everywhere else. "Drive" -> "Dr." everywhere)

Examples:

Good: "I use technology like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc."

Good: "Do you use technology like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc.?"

Good: "I use technology (like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc.)."

Good: "I use technology like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc. at work.

Good: "I use technology like Java, Microsoft, Unix, etc., which makes me more productive."

In particular, the following examples are wrong, since you would not use a comma in this position for any other word:

Bad: "I use technology like Java, Microsoft, etc.," (Should be: "I use technology like A, B, C.")

Bad: "Is it correct to use comma after etc., at the end of a sentence?" (Should be: "Is it correct to use comma after A at the end of a sentence?")
Note a comma could be used here to introduce a slight pause for emphasis, but it would be unusual.

Bad: "Tennis, soccer, baseball, etc., are outdoor sports" (Should be: "A, B, C are outdoor sports")


This content belongs to the Manuscript Writing Stage

Translate your research into a publication-worthy manuscript by understanding the nuances of academic writing. Subscribe and get curated reads that will help you write an excellent manuscript.