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I am used to seeing this used to condense a list of authors; however, is it correct to apply it to a list of companies? For example, would it make sense to say:

Seminars being held by Google, Microsoft, et al.

I understand it to read as "and others" which seems to make sense in this example, but I wasn't sure if it connoted "and other people" or not.

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Yes. A company is a "corporate body". QED. –  Kris Dec 25 '12 at 5:07
    
@Kris Surely all bodies are corporate, for if they were discorporate, there would be no body there at all. Habeas corpus? –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 5:23
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@tchrist Note the scare quotes around the phrase, not the word body alone. There are entities in law that are "corporate bodies" and those that are not. –  Kris Dec 25 '12 at 5:26
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4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Et al. is an abbreviation of Latin et alii (masculine), et aliae (feminine) or et alia (neuter), and it means ‘and others’. As the abbreviation doesn’t indicate the gender, it can be used to refer to men and women, and to inanimate entities, leaving the reader, if sufficiently erudite, to supply the appropriate ending.

However, a writer will pay greater respect to the reader by listing the others, rather than hoping the reader will be able to guess what they might be. If they really are too numerous to mention, then English rather than Latin will serve perfectly well, and sound less pompous, with something like ‘and similar companies’.

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This is an interesting take. I'm curious, though, would you allow that there are some places where et al. will do just fine, and not necessarily sound "pompous"? (I'm thinking, for example, of a trifold brochre, where "and similar companies" might force an undesired line break, but "et al." would prevent that.) I ask because et al. doesn't seem particularly pretentious to me – but maybe I've just seen it too often. –  J.R. Dec 25 '12 at 11:34
    
There would be a way around it. What do you do in similar circumstances when no Latin abbreviation is available? –  Barrie England Dec 25 '12 at 11:38
    
Okay, fair enough :^) If I was unfamiliar with et al., I suppose I'd try: Seminars held by companies such as Google and Microsoft, and see if that would fit. –  J.R. Dec 25 '12 at 11:41
    
Isn’t the feminine version et aliae? –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 14:35
    
@tchrist. It is. It's what I had first, but the e got lost in editing. Now restored. –  Barrie England Dec 25 '12 at 15:36
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Sure, you can.

No, you shouldn’t. You should not use a Latin abbreviation. Just use English.

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Why shouldn't he use a Latin abbreviation? Value judgments should always be supported by reasons for accepting the value. I like Latin abbreviations, perhaps because I find them easier to use than their longer English equivalents. I don't like the xenophobic and PC "let's dumb down the English language even more than it already has been at even the highest levels" attitude behind most proscriptions against using Latin abbreviations. I have no problem with prescriptions about English usage, but I like to know why -- beyond "Because I say so" -- I should take someone else's medicine. –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 3:41
    
@Bill, I know Latin. That isn’t the problem. But it has no place in normal text. This is not a hoity-toity journal from the ivory halls of Academe, you know. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 3:48
    
I write Latin abbreviations as a matter of course when I write informally to my friends. They all know what those abbreviations mean as well as you and I do. I don't think that there's any such thing as "normal text" in any language unless it's defined as the lowest common denominator (slightly above having to sign one's name as "X" and significantly below being able to write multisyllabic words without aksing a litterit pursun how to spel them). I think the cliché is "ivory towers" ain't it? –  user21497 Dec 25 '12 at 4:01
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The following abbreviations might serve you well if you want to sound fancy:

et al. (et alii) and others
etc. (et cetera) and the remaining ones
inter alia amongst others

caveat scriptor: if you use latin abbreviations gratuitously you will want to make sure that you know more latin than your coworkers!

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No, et al. is et alios/alias/alia. What would et alii mean in Latin? That does not make sense. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 3:46
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@tchrist you seem to be referring to the accusative forms (why accusative and not nominative?). alii is the masculine plural nominative form, but your point stands that et al. could in principle stand for other gender/case forms. –  jlovegren Dec 25 '12 at 3:59
    
Yes, I was thinking accusatives, and I don’t know why. I always think of it that way. I would have to think or look at how I actually use it, for why I got in the habit of thinking of the accusative forms for them. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 4:02
    
On your last point: inter alia is actually neuter, 'among other things'. Strictly 'among other people' is inter alios, which I have seen, but wouldn't claim to be common. –  TimLymington Dec 25 '12 at 9:54
    
@TimLymington Perhaps that is why I was thinking of the accusative forms. Not sure, but maybe. –  tchrist Dec 25 '12 at 15:42
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Yes. A company is a "corporate body" (body corporate).

Legal personality (also artificial personality, juridical personality, legal entity and juristic personality) is the characteristic of a non-living entity regarded by law to have the status of personhood. [emphasis mine]
(Wikipedia)

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