Many people use the phrase etc. in their writing. However, I have never come across an example of using a comma after it.

So, is it

Almost everybody uses Wi-Fi in their daily lives – be it gaming, emails, searching, etc. for it is their hobby.


Almost everybody uses Wi-Fi in their daily lives – be it gaming, emails, searching, etc., for it is their hobby.


Or perhaps I should use

Almost everybody uses Wi-Fi in their daily lives - be it gaming, emails, searching, etc, for it is their hobby

  • Because all of these points have been covered before on ELU. Why are you encouraging duplication? – Edwin Ashworth Feb 27 '17 at 23:34

Generally one does not put a comma after etc.:

Books, pens, paper, etc. were strewn all over the room.

However, in your sentence, a comma is needed. This is not because of the etc. but because be it gaming, emails, searching, etc. is in apposition to their daily lives. An appositive is a noun, noun phrase, or series of nouns that are provided as an explanatory equivalent to another noun or noun phrase in the sentence. In this case, be it gaming, emails, etc. provides additional details about their daily lives.

The appositive in this case is non-restrictive, i.e., leaving it off will not alter or make unclear the meaning of the sentence. Consider the following examples:

My sister Joanna lives in Melbourne.
My sister, Joanna, lives in Melbourne.

In both cases, Joanna is an appositive. However, in the first sentence, it is restrictive. The meaning is that I have more than one sister and I'm talking only about this one specific sister; she is the only one of my sisters who lives in Melbourne. Any other sisters I have live elsewhere. In the second sentence, the appositive is non-restrictive, i.e., I'm not restricting the meaning of the sentence to just one of my sisters. I'm saying that I have only one sister, and she lives in Melbourne.

Non-restrictive appositives need to be set off from the rest of the sentence in some way, typically with commas; em-dashes work as well. In your sentence, the appositive is non-restrictive: you're not specifying only parts of their daily life, you're saying people need wireless in their daily life taken as a whole. So you need to put in the comma after etc.

As a further example:

The tools of a writer's trade, i.e., books, pens, paper, etc., were evident on her desk.

Do you see the difference?

That said, your sentence itself is very awkward and sounds unidiomatic:

  • Generally, appositives should use parallel punctuation. If you start off with an em-dash, end it with another. Starting with a dash and ending with a comma is inelegant.
  • The antecedent of the second it is unclear: wifi? their daily lives? gaming, emails, searching? With the exception of gaming, none of these qualifies as a hobby, and gaming is not an independent subject in the sentence.
  • their daily lives—be it gaming, etc. is odd. Perhaps you mean whether for gaming, etc. Gaming, emails, searching is not coextensive with either daily lives or wifi and makes an odd complement to either.

So the sentence is in need of some rewriting.

| improve this answer | |
  • 'be it gaming ...' is not an appositive, though it is an explanatory / enlarging parenthetical. In an appositive construction, either variant may be omitted without losing grammaticality (Mr Major – the Prime Minister – did not take this view.) // I've down-voted as you don't seem to respect the need to avoid duplication. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '17 at 0:29
  • @EdwinAshworth How would you characterize it, then? By definition, an appositive is an explanatory, enlarging parenthetical. Furthermore, the part of the sentence from be it through etc. can be left out without affecting the grammar of this sentence. – verbose Feb 28 '17 at 0:32
  • As I said, the syntactic constraint applies. See M-W. CGEL likewise states: '[T]he appositive NP can be substituted for the whole supplementation ...' Thus 'A surprise present, a bouquet of roses, was delivered to my door' may grammatically drop either the original or the appositive NP. However, with 'Almost everybody uses something that uses Wi-Fi – be it gaming, emails, searching, etc – ...' it is incorrect to drop the 'something that uses Wi-Fi. The 'be it' destroys apposition. This is a different class of parenthetical. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '17 at 0:55
  • @EdwinAshworth Ah good point. I'll edit. – verbose Feb 28 '17 at 0:56
  • Why? All this has been covered here before. – Edwin Ashworth Feb 28 '17 at 0:56

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