I know a thing or two about using "etc." and semicolon, but not when they come together.

Help me to look at the example if you may:

Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects; Wacom Tablet, etc.

I wanted to mention the tools that I've used to create a project, but only the important ones.

As you can see, the list consists of 2 groups of "tools", software and hardware.

Now it looks like there is more to the "hardware" list - which is not my intention

I just want to convey the meaning of "there are some more general tools that I have also used" but not particularly is hard/software

should I write something like...

Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, etc.; Wacom Tablet, etc.

which looks redundant...


Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects; Wacom Tablet; etc.

which looks like there is a third group other than hard/software, which there isn't

I am open to other formats and style, does anyone have any idea?

  • {A, B ... E} + {α, β ... λ} + {א, ב‎ ... ה} should be written << A, B etc; α, β etc; א, ב‎ etc >> (chevrons just to offset). The choice of no-period abbreviations where ambiguity will not arise avoids clutter and confusion (and is pretty standard in 'BrE'). An etc is needed after each subset to show that each subset is larger than is shown. Semicolons are used as super-commas to offset subsets as opposed to elements of subsets. Sep 29, 2020 at 14:01
  • Or maybe you are trying to push bullet-list syntax beyond its limits, for something you could express more clearly and gracefully in sentences with subjects and predicates. Sep 29, 2020 at 15:53
  • @EdwinAshworth thank you, Edwin, I didn't know etc does not require a period after it in BrE before! Oct 1, 2020 at 6:28
  • @Briandonovan Yes that is a thoughtful solution as well. thank you for the reply! Oct 1, 2020 at 6:29
  • The scare-quotes around BrE are because no such thing exists. Many in the UK avoid the full stop after many abbreviations, though some hyperprescriptive Brits would argue they're wrong and others just prefer the added dot. And Some in the US doubtless consider the period unnecessary. However, if writing for a tutor / institution / editor, one should adhere to their preferences. He who pays the piper .... Oct 1, 2020 at 12:08

1 Answer 1


Technical and business writing handbooks tend to recommend against the use of etc. you propose because it is difficult to infer what other items in the list you are alluding to. Here's an excerpt from The Business Writer's Handbook, Eleventh Edition, 2015, p. 187:

Use etc. with a logical progression (1, 2, 3, etc.) and when at least two items are named. [...]

The sorting machine processes coins (pennies, nickels, etc.), and then packages them for redistribution.

Otherwise, avoid etc. because the reader may not be able to infer what other items a list might include.

VAGUE: He will bring notepads, paper clips, etc., to the trade show.

CLEAR: He will bring notepads, paper clips, and other office supplies to the trade show.

"Pennies, nickels, etc." creates a logical pattern that almost anyone in the US can fill in - dimes, quarters, half-dollars, dollars. "Notepads, paperclips" - or "Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects" - does not create a logical progression. I can't guess what's coming next. Thus the result is vague, and etc. raises more questions ("what other programs? why aren't they listed?").

Rather than using etc., adjust the presentation to clarify what you're presenting. Are you only focusing on important tools? Then either adjust the title ("Key Tools") to specify that the list is selective rather than exhaustive, or otherwise adjust the list to signal the scope of contents ("Photoshop, Illustrator, After Effects, and other programs; Wacom Tablet and other interfaces.")

  • @taliensinmerlin Very informative and clear. It is a piece of insightful advice and I think I will go with "Key Tools" :) Oct 1, 2020 at 6:31

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