Saturday, May 14, 2011

Et cetera Et cetera

For a while I have been uneasy about the use of "etc." in papers, talk slides, grant applications, etc.

I see too many sentences like
"this research has important implications for chemistry, physics, materials science, etc."
"quantum theory can describe atoms, molecules, etc."

Somehow, it communicates to me laziness on the part of the author. Intuitively, I think I object when it is not completely clear or universally agreed upon what the "etc." actually is.

I found it helpful to read the Wikipedia page for Et cetera which states
The phrase et cetera is often used to delete the logical continuation of some sort of series of descriptions. For example, in the following expression...
We will need a lot of bread: wheat, granary, wholemeal, etc.
... the "etc." stands for "and other types of bread".
So, if you have actually not thought out what you would list instead of "etc." or if others may disagree with your list, it would be better not to use "etc.".

But this is part of my agenda that we should ban the indiscriminate use of lists, nLAs etc.

1 comment: