5 posts categorized "et al."

January 30, 2014

How to Cite References Containing Lead Authors With the Same Surname and Publication Date




by Tyler Krupa

In a previous post, I provided guidelines on how to properly cite different groups of authors with the same lead author and publication date. As shown in that post, when you have two or more references of more than three surnames with the same year and they shorten to the same form (e.g., both Smith, Jones, Young, Brown, & Stanley, 2001, and Smith, Jones, Ward, Lee, & Stanley, 2001, shorten to Smith et al., 2001), you need to clarify which one you are citing each time. To do this, on the second and all subsequent citations, you should cite the surnames of the first two authors and of as many of the next authors as necessary to distinguish the two references, followed by a comma and et al. (see the sixth edition of the Publication Manual, p. 175).

Smith, Jones, Young, et al., 2001

Smith, Jones, Ward, et al., 2001

Now let’s add a twist and use references that contain different lead authors with the same surname and year of publication. Do you know what you should do differently? Let’s find out by looking at the following references:

Jones, B. T., Corbin, W., & Fromme, K. (2001). A review of expectancy theory and alcohol consumption. Addiction, 96, 57–72. http://dx.doi.org/10.1046/j.1360-0443.2001.961575.x

Jones, S. E., Oeltmann, J., Wilson, T. W., Brener, N. D., & Hill, C. V. (2001). Binge drinking among undergraduate college students in the United States: Implications for other substance use. Journal of American College Health, 50, 33–38. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448480109595709

On the second and all subsequent citations, are you tempted to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references? Although this seems like a logical way to proceed, because the lead authors are not the same person, you should instead include the lead author’s initials in all the text citations (for more information about when to use author initials for text citations, see my recent post). Therefore, the text cites for these two references would be as follows:


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., B. T. Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones et al. (2001) and S. E. Jones et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


First citation: Previous studies (e.g., Jones, Corbin, & Fromme, 2001; Jones, Oeltmann, Wilson, Brener, & Hill, 2001) have shown that . . .

Subsequent citations: Both Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .


Subsequent citations: Both B. T. Jones, Corbin, and Fromme (2001) and S. E. Jones, Oeltmann, et al. (2001) produced similar results . . .

In these citations, because the lead authors are different, the lead author’s initials should be included in all text citations, regardless of how often they appear. In addition, there is no need to add the names of the additional authors to distinguish the two references on the second and subsequent citations because the initials before the surnames of the lead authors already accomplish that.

Questions? Leave us a comment.

February 14, 2013

To My One True Love et al.


By David Becker

This Valentine’s Day, I would like to give you a simple piece of advice: Never, ever use et al. when addressing the one you love! It’s fine when you’re citing sources for an academic paper, but it doesn’t work as well with a card and a bouquet of flowers.

We have discussed the proper use of et al. in a previous blog post, and you can also find this information in section 6.12 of the Publication Manual (pp. 175–176). Basically, when citing a work by three to five authors in-text, you should list all of their surnames in the first citation. In subsequent citations, you should include only the first author’s surname followed by et al. If you are a citing a work by six or more authors in-text, you should list the first author’s surname followed by et al. in all citations. So unless you want to have an awkward conversation with your significant other about the rest of the significant others in your life, I would avoid using et al. in your Valentine’s Day card.

Speaking of which, if you’re having trouble finding a good Valentine’s Day card this year, or if you’re desperately searching for a last-minute gift, I would recommend sending APA Style's very own Valentine’s Day card to the one you love. You can also send it to your friends, your family, the anxious psychology student in your life, your favorite professor, your least favorite professor, or whoever else you think would appreciate it.

APA Style Valentine's Day Card

Happy Valentine's Day from all of us at APA Style!

November 03, 2011

The Proper Use of Et Al. in APA Style

Chelsea blog 2 by Chelsea Lee

Academic writing is full of little conventions that may seem opaque to the uninitiated. One of these is the Latin phrase et al., an abbreviation meaning “and others.” It is used to shorten lists of author names in text citations to make repeated referencing shorter and simpler. Note that et al. is italicized in this post when I am using it as a linguistic example, but it should not be italicized when you are using it as part of a reference citation.

General Use of Et Al.

Below is a chart showing when to use et al., which is determined by the number of authors and whether it is the first time a reference has been cited in the paper. Specifically, articles with one or two authors include all names in every in-text citation; articles with three, four, or five authors include all names in the first in-text citation but are abbreviated to the first author name plus et al. upon subsequent citations; and articles with six or more authors are abbreviated to the first author name plus et al. for all in-text citations.

Number of authors

First text citation (either parenthetical or narrative)

Subsequent text citations (all)

One or two

Palmer & Roy, 2008

Palmer & Roy, 2008

Three, four, or five

Sharp, Aarons, Wittenberg, & Gittens, 2007

Sharp et al., 2007

Six or more

Mendelsohn et al., 2010

Mendelsohn et al., 2010


Avoiding Ambiguity

However, sometimes abbreviating to the first author name plus et al. can create ambiguity. Here are two example references, as also discussed in a previous post about reference twins.

Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). Good judgments do not require complex cognition. Cognitive Processing, 11, 103–121. doi:10.1007/s10339-009-0337-0
Marewski, J. N., Gaissmaier, W., Schooler, L. J., Goldstein, D. G., & Gigerenzer, G. (2010). From recognition to decisions: Extending and testing recognition-based models for multi-alternative inference. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 17, 287–309. doi:10.3758/PBR.17.3.287

The first in-text citations to each of these would be as follows:

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, Goldstein, & Gigerenzer, 2010)

For the subsequent in-text citations we would usually abbreviate these studies to the first author name plus et al.; however, doing so here would produce two Marewski et al. (2010) citations, leaving the reader unable to tell which one you mean (if the citations were from different years we would not have this problem, because the years would tell them apart). The solution here is to spell out as many names as necessary (here, to the third name) upon subsequent citations to tell the two apart: 

  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, & Gigerenzer, 2010)
  • (Marewski, Gaissmaier, Schooler, et al., 2010)

Notice that for the first reference, this means that all citations to this source include all three names. For the second reference, the two remaining names can be abbreviated to et al.

A Quirk of Et Al.

Finally, be careful of a quirk of et al., which is that it is plural—that is, it must replace at least two names (or, put another way, it cannot stand for only one name). So, if you have worked through a reference and only one name is left to abbreviate, you must spell out all the names every time to tell the two apart.  Here is an example with three authors, although the principle holds no matter how many total authors there are:

Berry, C. J., Henson, R. N. A., & Shanks, D. R. (2006). On the relationship between repetition priming and recognition memory: Insights from a computational model. Journal of Memory and Language, 55, 515–533. doi:10.1016/j.jml.2006.08.008
Berry, C. J., Shanks, D. R., & Henson, R. N. A. (2006). On the status of unconscious memory: Merikle and Reingold (1991) revisited. Journal of Experimental Psychology: Learning, Memory, and Cognition, 32, 925–934. doi:10.1037/0278-7393.32.4.925

The correct in-text citations would be written as follows for all citations of these two references:

  • (Berry, Henson, & Shanks, 2006)
  • (Berry, Shanks, & Henson, 2006)

Avoid the following common incorrect ways of citing these references in text:

  • (Berry, Henson, et al., 2006), (Berry et al., 2006a)
  • (Berry, Shanks, et al., 2006), (Berry et al., 2006b)

A Final Note

If it happens that all the author names are exactly the same and the studies were published in the same year as well, the method of citation described in the reference twins post applies. Namely, use et al. as usual but also include lowercase letters after the year (2010a, 2010b, etc.) to tell the references apart.

For more information and examples on citing references in text, see Chapter 6 of our sixth edition Publication Manual (pp. 174–179). You may also be interested in our primer on how in-text citations work and our piece on common et al.-related errors.

February 04, 2011

Et al.: When and How?

Paige-for-web-site 75x75 by Paige Jackson
This week, we continue on down the list of frequent APA Style stumbling blocks compiled by Dr. Anthony Onwuegbuzie and colleagues (Onwuegbuzie, Combs, Slate, & Frels, 2010).  These authors contributed a recent guest post to our blog, and this is our third follow-up post on specific common errors.

Third on the list is the usage of et al.  Given the level of detail in these style rules, it’s no surprise that many find them challenging.  Here are three common errors:

1. Writers sometimes use the surname of the first author followed by et al. at the first mention of a work that has three, four, or five authors.  Only when a work has six or more authors should the first in-text citation consist of the first author followed by et al.  With five or fewer authors, all the author surnames should be spelled out at first mention.
2. Writers also make the opposite error by including all author surnames when et al. should be used instead.  Once an in-text citation has been mentioned one time, all subsequent citations to a work with three or more authors should consist of the surname of the first author followed by et al. 
3. Many writers use et al. correctly in terms of context but make italicization or punctuation errors.  I have italicized et al. in this post because it’s a linguistic example (see section 4.21, p. 105).  However, it should not be italicized when you are using it as part of a reference.  We also see et al without the period at the end.  Because et al. is short for et alii (Latin for “and others”), the second word is actually an abbreviation and as such takes a period.

See the APA Publication Manual, section 6.12 (p. 175) for a handy table illustrating this usage.

We hope this clears up some misconceptions.  Let us know if there are some we’ve missed.

Onwuegbuzie, A. J., Combs, J. P., Slate, J. R., & Frels, R. K.  (2010).  Editorial: Evidence-based guidelines for avoiding the most common APA errors in journal article submissions.  Research in the Schools, 16(2), ix–xxxvi.

May 13, 2010

It’s All Latin to Me: Latin Abbreviations in Scholarly Writing

Chelsea blog by Chelsea Lee

The English language loves to appropriate words from other languages and claim them as its own. Some of these words and phrases have become so well used in scientific writing that you can employ them in your writing as abbreviations without any definitions or special attention (for instance, no need for italics). Yet readers new to scientific writing might find themselves scratching their heads and exclaiming, "It’s all Greek to me!" (Though the grammarian in me would point out that all the expressions below actually come from Latin, not Greek.)

The table below focuses on Latin abbreviations common to scholarly writing that may be used without definition in APA Style. Note that this list is not exhaustive. See also section 4.26 (p. 108) of the Publication Manual for more.

Abbreviation Meaning Example use Notes for APA Style
Used inside of parentheses only
cf. “compare” or “consult” (used to provide contrasting or opposing information) Abbott (2010) found supportive results in her memory experiment, unlike those of previous work (cf. Zeller & Williams, 2007). She expands on the working memory literature (see also Evans & Potter, 2005). Never put a comma after. Do not put a period between the c and the f. Use “cf.” to contrast; to compare like things, use “see” or “see also.”
e.g., “for example,” (abbreviation for exempli gratia) Some studies (e.g., Jenkins & Morgan, 2010; Macmillan, 2009) have supported this conclusion. Others—for example, Chang (2004)—disagreed. Always put a comma after.
etc. “and so on” or “and so forth” (abbreviation for et cetera) Students ranked their school subjects (chemistry, math, etc.) in order of preference, first, second, third, and so on, until they had ranked the entire list. A majority ranked science-related subjects (biology etc.) as their second favorite. Put a comma before if used to end a list of at least two other items, as shown in the example.
i.e., “that is,” (abbreviation for id est; used to give specific clarification) The experimenters manipulated the order of presentation (i.e., first, second, or third) of the three images as well their size, that is, whether they were small or large. Always put a comma after.
viz., “namely,” We first replicated our earlier study (viz., Black & Avery, 2008) and then extended it. Always put a comma after.
vs. “versus” The 2 (low vs. high) × 2 (blue vs. green) analysis of variance revealed that the low versus high distinction was not significant. Exception: With legal citations use v. instead (with italics; see also Appendix 7.1, section A7.03, Examples 1–8).
Used inside and outside of parentheses
et al. “and others” Thomas, Greengrass, and Hopkirk (2010) made several excellent points about goal-seeking behavior. Thomas et al. began with how goals are selected. Must refer to at least two people because it is a plural phrase. See section 6.12 (p. 175) for more on how to use.
Never used in APA Style
ibid. abbreviation for ibidem, used in citations to refer again to the last source previously referenced ——— Not used in APA Style; instead give each citation using author names as usual.

Note. All abbreviations in the first section should be used inside of parentheses only, that is, when you are making a parenthetical statement. Outside of parentheses, spell these expressions out using the definitions given in the Meaning column. The abbreviation “et al.” is used both inside and outside of parentheses. Directions on comma use always apply, whether you are abbreviating or not. Although the abbreviation “ibid.” is not used in APA Style, it is included here because it occurs in non-APA scholarly writing and readers may be otherwise unfamiliar with it. Unless otherwise noted, none of these abbreviations should be italicized.

You can download a PDF of the Latin abbreviations table here if you would like to use it as a handout for teaching or classroom purposes.

Feel free to share your contributions in the comments!

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