Can We Stop Using etc.?

Can you not?


As an editor, I have more writing-related pet peeves than most normal people probably do. Don’t start multiple sentences in a row with the same word; please refrain from writing he/she instead of they. Probably the one that has been bothering me the most lately is the use of etc.

Etc. — etcetera — essentially just means, “blah, blah, blah.” And I HATE THAT.

It’s completely unnecessary in both formal and informal writing, especially in essays and articles. Using it isn’t “wrong’ necessarily, but to me, it just sounds lazy — if you can’t come up with another example for something, don’t use one.

I see people use etc. unnecessarily most often when they’re trying to stick to a rule of three — giving three examples or descriptive words to bring a sense of clarity and added understanding to their work.

People who like to create things — writers, painters, etc. — can do so with the help of online resources.

There are a variety of tools a writer can use, including writing courses, word processing programs, etc.

It’s an OK structure to try following, but I personally suggest avoiding etc. as much as possible. Especially if you’re trying to condense your writing to make it clearer and more concise.

People who like to create things, such as writers and painters, can do so with the help of online resources.

There are a variety of tools a writer can use, including writing courses and word processing programs.

When I’m editing, I delete any usage of etc. and just cut a list off before where the etc. was. It just reads cleaner, and I don’t stop paying attention to what I’m reading in order to think about what etc. could entail as far as unnamed examples.

This is, of course, just a major pet peeve of mine. Other writers might tell you that you can use etc. all you want as long as the examples you provide before it are connected. I just prefer a much steadier sentence and paragraph flow without it. How about you?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and a nine-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter for tweets about writing, food and nerdy things.

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