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When listing items and ending the list with "etc", should there be a comma before "etc."? E.g.

red, green, blue, etc.

or

red, green, blue etc.

Related question, though this one involves the word "and", so I am no sure if the answer applies to this question or not: Should I put a comma before the last item in a list?

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2 Answers 2

up vote 17 down vote accepted

If there's no conjunction at the end of the list (and / or for example), then a comma is required. Thus, the correct version is:

red, green, blue, etc.

(Note that etc. should include the full stop, as it is an abbreviation.)

Regarding commas before and (or any conjunction) at the end of the list, that is a matter of huge debate. The subject is well-discussed on the Wiki page for the serial comma. Although it's probably fair to say that usage of the serial comma is non-standard in general, many notable institutions and publications such as Oxford and Harvard Universities strongly recommend its usage. There are certainly some good arguments for its usage, mainly in terms of consistency and unambiguity. If you want to open up this can of worms, I suggest we start another question (and make it community wiki for its subjectivity.)

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2  
There is already a question about serial comma, even if the topic is to use the comma also for the last item. –  kiamlaluno Aug 20 '10 at 13:47
2  
...to which Eyvind links in the question. :) –  kitukwfyer Aug 20 '10 at 19:19

Since et cetera means "and so forth", your question is very nearly identical to the serial comma question. However, I would say that the comma before etc. is much more prevalent than the serial comma itself, so if in doubt, include the comma.

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protected by tchrist Dec 16 at 4:36

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