While recent­ly edit­ing a client doc­u­ment, I came across a usage sim­i­lar to the fol­low­ing:

I like cit­rus fruits (e.g. oranges, lemons, grape­fruits, etc).

I don’t like this usage. I find it redun­dant.

E.g. is an abbre­vi­a­tion for the Latin exem­pli gra­tia, which means some­thing like “for the sake of an exam­ple” but which we short­en to “for exam­ple”. We use it to, as the Chica­go Man­u­al Style says, “intro­duce a short list of exam­ples” (5.220).

Etc. is an abbre­vi­a­tion for the Latin et cetera, which means some­thing like “and the rest”. We use it to indi­cate “that a list of things is too exten­sive to recite” (5.220).

Using e.g. and etc. togeth­er, as my exam­ple above, is redun­dant. One tells us a short —but not exhaus­tive — list of exam­ples fol­lows, and the oth­er tells us there are more exam­ples that haven’t been includ­ed.

All that being said, using them both wouldn’t be wrong, tech­ni­cal­ly. Using both (or not) is sim­ply a styl­is­tic choice. I pre­fer using just one, most­ly because I try to avoid wordi­ness, and redun­dan­cy is an easy way for wordi­ness to creep in.

Two final notes on using “etc.”, accord­ing to the CMS:

  1. It should be used only after at least two items, nev­er just one.
  2. Often, writ­ers seem to run out of exam­ples to list and tack on etc. for no real pur­pose.

What are your thoughts on using e.g. and etc. togeth­er? Let me know in the com­ments below.

About Kim Siever

I am a copy­writer and copy­ed­i­tor. I blog on writ­ing tips most­ly, but I some­times throw in my thoughts about run­ning a small busi­ness.

Fol­low me on Twit­ter at @hotpepper.

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