How and When to Use ''et al.'' in APA In-Text Citations

The acronym ‘‘et al.’’ is an abbreviation for the Latin term ‘et alia,’’ meaning ‘‘and others’’ and used in academic in-text citations when referring to a source with multiple authors. Depending on the number of authors a reference has, an APA in-text citation is abbreviated by using ‘et al.’ after the first author’s last name.


How and When to Use ''et al.'' in APA In-Text Citations

The acronym “et al.” is an abbreviation for the Latin term ‘‘et alia,’’ meaning ‘‘and others’’ and is used in academic in-text citations when referring to a source with multiple authors. Depending on the number of authors a reference has, an APA in-text citation is abbreviated by using “et al.” after the first author’s last name. Different citation styles adopt different rules for when to use “et al.” This blog discussed the rules for APA style. For a study with one or two authors, include the authors’ last name(s) in every citation.

Here is how this could look:

  • The research by Acemoglu and Robinson (2012) argues that…


  • … (Acemoglu & Robinson, 2012).

In APA style, for a source with three or more authors, list the first author’s last name and “et al.” for all citations, including the first citation. Note that this rule has changed from APA 6th Edition guidelines on using“et al.” which recommend listing all author names in the first citation up to five authors but then using “et al.” for the second and subsequent citations.

How and when to use et al. in APA in-text citations

In October 2019, the American Psychological Association (APA) introduced the 7th edition of the APA Publication Manual, which replaces the 6th edition published in 2009. The in-intext citation for works with three or more authors is now abbreviated right from the first citation. You only include the first author’s name and “et al.”

  • (Mason, Robin, Parker, & Williams, 2008) (Incorrect)

  • (Mason et al., 2008)(Correct)

Here is how this would look for a source authored by Aneshensel, Rutter, and Lachenbruch (1991) published in 1991.

  • (Aneshensel et al., 1991)


  • Aneshensel et al. (1991) emphasized that…

Remember that there is no comma between the surname and “et al.” but a comma should be placed before the date in parentheses citation.  Also, the period goes only after the “al.”    even when it falls in the middle of a sentence.

The Proper Use of "et al. " in APA Style

There are several common mistakes to watch out for when using “et al.” in APA. The “al” in “et al.” is always followed by a period, as the term is an abbreviation of the Latin phrase “et alia” et alia,’’ meaning ‘’and others.’’ In this context, the period shows that it is an abbreviation. Thus, the following forms are not correct: ‘‘et al’’, ‘‘et. al’’, ‘‘et. al.’’

The proper use of the abbreviation is ‘‘et al.’’ Also, “et al.” can be directly followed by another punctuation where necessary. However, the period always comes first: (Aneshensel et al., 2013).

When “et al.” is used right at the end of a sentence, only one period is used:

This approach is discussed by Aneshensel et al.

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For more information about the citation styles and APA style, read the following articles: 

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