How and When to Use ”et al.” in APA In-Text Citations?

how to use et al. in APA Style

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This blog is a discussion of using et al. in APA in-text citations. To give you an opportunity to practice your proofreading, we have left a few spelling, punctuation, or grammatical errors in the text. See if you can spot them! If you spot the errors correctly, you will be entitled to a 10% discount. 

‘‘Et al.’’ is an abbreviation for the Latin term ‘et alia,’’ meaning ‘‘and others’’ and used in academic in-text citations when referring to a source with multiple authors. Depending on the number of the authors a reference has, an APA in-text citation is abbreviated by using ‘et al.’ after the first author’s last name.

Different citation styles adopt different rules for when to use ‘’et al.’’. This blog discussed the rules for APA style. For a study with one or two authors, include the authors’ last name(s) in every citation. Here is how this could look:

The research by Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) argues that…

or

… (Acemoglu & Robinson, 2012). 

In APA style, for a source with three or more authors, list the first author’s last name and “et al.” for all citations, including the first citation. Note that this rule has changed from APA 6th Edition guidelines on using “et al.,” which recommend listing all author names in the first citation up to five authors but then using “et al.” for the second and subsequent citations. Thus, APA 7th Edition suggests listing the first author’s last name and ‘’et al.’’ for all citations, including the first one.

Here is how this would look for a source authored by Aneshensel, Rutter, and Lachenbruch (1991) published in 1991.

(Aneshensel et al., 1991)

or

Aneshensel et al. (1991) emphasized that…

Remember that there is no comma between the surname and “et al.,” but a comma should be placed before the date in parentheses citation.  Also, the period goes only after the “al.”   even when it falls in the middle of a sentence.

The Proper Use of ‘‘et al.’’ in APA Style

There are several common mistakes to watch out when using “et al.” in APA. The “al” in “et al.” is always followed by a period, as the term is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “et alia” et alia,’’ meaning ‘’and others.’’ In this context, the period shows that it is an abbreviation. Thus, the following forms are not correct: ‘‘et al’’, ‘‘et. al’’, ‘‘et. al.’’

The proper use of the abbreviation is ‘‘et al.’’ Also, “et al.” can be directly followed by another punctuation where necessary. However, the period always comes first: (Aneshensel et al., 2013).

When “et al.” is used right at the end of a sentence, only one period is used: This approach is discussed by Aneshensel et al. 

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use of et al. in APA Style

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