Comma before and after ‘etc.’

by Jakub Marian

Tip: See my list of the Most Common Mistakes in English. It will teach you how to avoid mis­takes with com­mas, pre­pos­i­tions, ir­reg­u­lar verbs, and much more (PDF Version).

Should you use a comma before and/or after “etc.”? There’s no definitive answer, because different style guides recommend different usage. Nevertheless, the style that seems to be recommended the most is to always include a comma before “etc.”; it is recommended even by those who discourage the use of the Oxford comma (the comma before the last item in a list). (Note: This article is based on my book about the most common mistakes in English.) For example:

He bought some apples, oranges, grapefruits, etc.

If “etc.” is not the last part of the sentence, it is to be followed by a comma:

He bought some apples, oranges, grapefruits, etc., for his fruit salad.

Some sources recommend not using any comma at all, but these are much less numerous than for the previous use:

He bought some apples, oranges, grapefruits etc. for his fruit salad.

Note, however, that the period after “etc” should always be included. Writing just “etc” is almost universally considered bad style.

By the way, if you haven’t read my guide on how to avoid the most common mistakes in English, make sure to check it out; it deals with similar topics.

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