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Example:

It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.

VS.

It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc..

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3  
I always avoid the awkwardness of this by writing "et cetera" in full sentence-finally. It doesn't look all that awkward, and it might have the pleasant side-effect of breaking people of the "exetera" habit. –  Jon Purdy Jan 10 '11 at 17:40
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@Jon, sorry for being rude, but I completely disagree, I personally think writing et cetera is nerdish and annoying. –  Shimmy Jan 10 '11 at 17:50
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@Shimmy: Eh, doesn't bother me. I rarely use the phrase anyway, preferring to re-word. Why should it look "nerdish and annoying" anyway? Just that it's unabbreviated and less common? –  Jon Purdy Jan 10 '11 at 17:52
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@jerimy: That's why I didn't post my comment as an answer...because it's not an answer. I was just sharing my own experience. –  Jon Purdy Jan 19 '11 at 23:08
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...Or you can say, "and so on", which is the translation of "et cetera" into English, which is the language you are writing in after all. –  muntoo Feb 14 '12 at 7:12

4 Answers 4

up vote 73 down vote accepted

If etc. occurs at the end of a sentence, then you do not add another period.

It's all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.

However, if etc. occurs at the end of a clause, you can add a comma or other punctuation mark after it.

I bought the apples, oranges, etc., but they were all rotten.

This grammar reference gives the following rule:

When an abbreviation with a period ends a sentence, that period will suffice to end the sentence.

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My programmer side and my aesthetic side have been in a fight about this one for a long time. The first one said that now something is hanging in the air, but the other said it just didn't look right. Guess aesthetics win here. Thanks. –  gligoran Jun 14 at 8:47

The correct form of your example:

It’s all about apples, oranges, bananas, etc.

Jack Lynch’s Guide to Grammar and Style states:

This one is simple enough: never double up periods. If a statement ends with “etc.” the period in the abbreviation does double duty, serving as the full stop to end the sentence. If, however, you need another mark of punctuation after an abbreviation, you can put it after the period. So:

  • This was her first trip to the U.S. (The period does double-duty, ending both the abbreviation and the sentence.)
  • Is this your first trip to the U.S.? (The period ends the abbreviation, but the question mark ends the sentence.)
  • On her first trip to the U.S., Kristina lost her passport. (The period ends the abbreviation, but the sentence keeps going after the comma.)

The only thing to remember: don't double the periods. Everything else is logical enough.

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Note also that, when an abbreviation comes at the end of a sentence, only one full stop is written. You should never write two full stops in a row.

'Guide to Punctuation' by Larry Trask.

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If you follow through on the Trask reference, you come to the recommendation 'The rule about using these Latin abbreviations [eg e.g., etc.] is very simple: don't use them.' - which would seem to trump the 'never write two full stops in a row' rule. Personally, I pick and choose amongst the self-appointed style gurus, and would only avoid ex-Latin abbreviations if the audience was especially fussy. I've found a style guide which recommends dropping full stops from abbreviations unless ambiguities would thus arise; this convention avoids the original problem and cuts punctuation clutter. –  Edwin Ashworth Sep 17 '12 at 19:58

If is was not a question, then you would not need two periods at the end of the sentence, but you do seem to need the period before a question mark.

You might just use the full et cetera. Then you don't have to worry about the problem at all.

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I just read the same thing in a Grammar Girl tip yesterday. I was a little surprised to read that. I've never written "... etc.?" but always "... etc?" Live and learn. Sigh. Well, no one has ever called me on that minor error, so I'll continue to make it. Some habits just aren't worth changing. –  user21497 Oct 17 '12 at 1:03
    
@BillFranke It's only an error if you get paid for fixing it. –  StoneyB Oct 17 '12 at 1:12
    
@StoneyB: Or if a journal editor or reviewer calls it an error and demands that I change it. I love it when non-native speakers and writers of English tell me, with the full authority of their PhD in microbiology behind them, that a sentence containing something like "... which meant that that hypothesis was incorrect ...": "This sentence ungrammatical. It have two 'that's." –  user21497 Oct 17 '12 at 1:20
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@BillFranke "Make you a deal: I don't tell you how to sequence genomes, you don't tell me how to write." I can handle those guys. It's the lawyers I hate. –  StoneyB Oct 17 '12 at 1:28
    
@game3 Can you back up your claim with either reason (to show that your claimed rule flows from other conventions of English), or data (to show that this is in fact the convention that native speakers follow)? –  iconoclast Oct 23 '12 at 13:52

protected by RegDwigнt Feb 14 '12 at 13:05

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