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:
- It should be used only after at least two items, never just one.
- 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.
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