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"In the case of medical diagnostics, there is a cost associated with each medical procedure that provides additional information (blood test, x-ray, etc.)."

Should that end with "etc.).", "etc)." or "etc.)"?

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4 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

If you are only concerned with this example you could just not use the abbreviation and write:

... information (blood test, x-ray, et cetera).

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Sounds like a good fix for this particular situation. –  Gabe Oct 24 '11 at 14:41
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There's an increasing tendency not to add a period after "etc", so if OP were to adopt that convention the problem would obviously go away. But you can't just drop the period in that one context unless you're happy to discard it everywhere else - consistency is more important than which particular usage you adopt.

If OP doesn't want to always write "etc" without a period, I suggest he should drop the period after the bracket. Many people are happy to let a sentence end with just a closing bracket, if it's immediately preceded by a period, exclamation mark, or question mark.

Haing said that, ending a sentence with "etc.)." doesn't seem particularly unacceptable to me. Unfortunately it's difficult to search for usage figures involving these characters, so I can't produce any evidence to show what people normally write. All I can say is it's a matter of style, not absolute rules of grammar.

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Of the 23,387 (mostly English) Project Gutenberg text files I have here: 436 files contain at least one etc.). and 39 contain at least one etc).. Of course, these are older out-of-copyright texts so usage may or may not have changed. I suspect it is changing; at least the Guardian style guide doesn't use full points for ie, eg, etc –  Hugo Oct 24 '11 at 15:44
    
I was slightly thinking of The Guardian when I said there's an increasing tendency to drop those periods. I don't know when they started doing that, but I bet it was in the last 20 years - probably the last 10. In a context like this, Project Gutenberg may well not be all that helpful, as you say. –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '11 at 16:05
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You are correct in this item from your example:

(blood test, x-ray, etc.).

The two marks of punctuation are actually different; the period following "etc" marks an abbreviation, and the period following the closing parenthesis is terminal punctuation. Each mark is doing a different job, so you need both of them.

Here's another example that arises frequently:

The tarantula crawled into the sleeping bag ... unnoticed.

In this case, the three periods are marks of ellipsis, here serving to create a dramatic pause. But, when the marks of ellipsis fall at the end of a sentence, you still require closing punctuation:

The surgeon raised the scalpel and leaned forward ....

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Per my own answer, it's difficult to use electronic search aids to establish what people actually write in these areas. But I think few would bother adding a fourth period to end a sentence which would otherwise end with three periods denoting ellipsis... –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '11 at 15:25
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This is fully covered in the Chicago Manual of Style, Words into Type, and similar style guides. This is a copyediting question and quite straightforward. –  The Raven Oct 24 '11 at 15:30
    
But CMOS is just that - a style guide. It doesn't tell us what people actually write, only what CMOS suggests. –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '11 at 15:39
    
The person asking the original question would like to know what the correct approach to punctuating a sentence is. One generally consults a style manual or similar for an authoritative answer. –  The Raven Oct 24 '11 at 15:50
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Okay - style guides at dawn it is then! Your CMOS against my Guardian Style Guide. Do not use full points in abbreviations, or spaces between initials, including those in proper names: US, mph, eg, 4am, lbw, M&S, No 10, AN Wilson, WH Smith, etc. Which ends with a period only because it's the end of a sentence. :) –  FumbleFingers Oct 24 '11 at 16:09
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Since c is not the last letter of cetera, you need a full stop after it (at least in formal situations). British usage is to put this before the bracket in all cases, though I believe American differs sometimes. And though, logically, you would need another full stop to end the sentence, I've never seen it used (probably to avoid ending with ?etc..)

So go with the third alternative, "...x-ray, etc.)"

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I understand the logic, but personally preferred putting the full cetera :-) Thanks though! –  Gabe Oct 24 '11 at 14:43
    
I don't need a full stop after etc unless I'm using it to end a sentence etc. The Guardian Style Guide agrees, and the CMOS haven't sent anyone round with a big stick yet. –  Edwin Ashworth Apr 6 '13 at 12:25
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