I use et al. to refer to a paper with more than two authors. However, the word et got separated by a line (due to line end) and the word al. cam in the beginning of a new line.

... Authorname [end of line]

et al. [4] find ...

They are separated by a space, so my editor did not add - and consideres them as two words.

Is this ok? Or do they have to come as one word?

  • Is ice cream or mother-in-law a word? It depends on how you interpret such entries in the dictionary. They are treated as single syntactic units. As such, they could be considered a word (or word unit). The Latin et al. means and others, which is two words. However, in our usage of it, we treat it in the same way that we treat ice cream. By the way, there are open, hyphenated, and closed words (or phrases or expressions). Just because they are open doesn't necessarily mean that they are considered to be two (or more) words. Jun 22, 2019 at 19:27
  • I would maybe add a non-breaking space between 'et' and 'al.' to make sure they always end up together, avoiding this conundrum :) Feb 12, 2021 at 21:39

1 Answer 1


"et al." is a phrase consisting of two words. It is short for er alia (or alii or aliae depending on gender) which is Latin for "and others", and so should be in italics. It could be formatted with a non-breaking space, to avoid this problem. Different style guides have different rules for when and if it should be used. See this MW dictionary entry for more info.

  • 1
    I don't agree it should be italicized. According to the official APA blog, it doesn't have to be italicized.
    – user178049
    Jun 22, 2019 at 17:24
  • @David Siegel Thanks. But I do not see an answer for my question. Is breaking them ok or not?
    – None
    Jun 22, 2019 at 17:38
  • @user178049 Any given style guide will have its own rules, but i think the default is still to use italics unless the particular style guide in use says otherwise.
    – David Siegel
    Jun 22, 2019 at 22:08
  • @none You asked, is it one word or two. I answered two, It is always OK to break a line at any word break, although one tries to avoid a single word alone on a line, perhaps by forcing a break earlier. It is certainly better to keep "et al" together if possible but there is no rule that requires doing so, and that is the kind of thing that an editor gets to decide, in light of the house style, if any.
    – David Siegel
    Jun 22, 2019 at 22:11

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