Upon reading our own publication, ahem… twelve weeks late or so, I notice now that every instance of et al. has been changed to “and co-workers.” One occurrence of vide infra was left mostly unharmed (for some reason stripped of its italic type).

Oh, I miss et al. deeply already. You editors got a problem with Latin all of the sudden? “Co-workers” sounds so earthy. What is next, women’s right to vote and drive cars?


8 Responses to Why you hate et al. so much?

  1. Magnus says:

    I agree, et al is nicer. But it is different right, et al should be used only after the first author’s name while and coworkers can be used in any order? E g one cannot write “Buchwald et al” if he is the last name and corresponding author, then the editors should change it to “Buchwald and coworkers”.

  2. Neil says:

    Because there’s no need to use Latin when there are perfectly good English words available!

    (unless space is a problem; for example, in footnotes or references)

    • drfreddy says:

      But… how else to distance oneself from unnamed peasants? 🙂

      The Japanese have a neat solution. They use a different alphabet for science, to keep us well separated from the general public. That is crafty and classy.

      (Don’t take anything I write here too seriously. What I wrote about scientific Japanese is however to the best of my knowledge correct. In addition, my Chinese colleague just told me about a similar conspiracy in China. Chemistry students have to learn a new, foreign language to be able to read and write chemistry; new signs/symbols with completely unpredictable pronunciations for every little word. Et al. is futile in comparison.)

  3. I was taught what Magnus said:

    Smith et al. = lots of people, but Smith is first in the list of authors, even if he’s not the supervisor.

    Smith and co-workers = lots of people but Smith is mentioned explicitly for some reason, most usually because he’s the lead author (ie has star next to his name).

    At the same time I’m sympathetic to the view that English words should be preferred if they are available, but et al. and co-workers don’t mean the same thing exactly, as far as I know.

    To complicate further, I’ve read theses and papers where both et al and co-workers are used, and the result is fairly confusing.

    I suggest “Smith and co-workers” mixed up with a bit of “the group of Smith…” or even “Smith’s group…” if you have to get all possessive about it.

    The other thing about et al. is that people don’t always seem to know where to put the full stop. So you get “et. al” or “et al.” or “et al”. I’ve even seen “et all.” Which should rightly be translated to “and all”. As in “Smith and all.”

    It’s a labyrinth. And all.

    • drfreddy says:

      There is only one perfect solution; one I think you have every reason to like, Luke.

      Henceforth, everything should be in Latin. No more battles over sulfur/sulphur or specialty/speciality. Latin used to be the lingua franca of science. Let us get right back there. Never change a winning team.

      Oh, Google Translate is awesome. I fed it with the mother of all pick-up lines, “does this smell like chloroform to you?”, and look what I got:

      Hoc odore tamquam chloroformium tibi?

  4. Nasir Abbas says:

    What about colleagues? Is it similar to co-workers?
    I think when the work has been done in one,s supervision , say Nasir Abbas and there were many men doing that, the we will write as Nasir and colleagues….
    When published work was done at different places and Nasir is corresponding author and he is not the first author , then Nasir and co-workers….
    And when the same work was performed at different places and Nasir is first & corresponding author, then Nasir et al.,

  5. Dark Web says:

    Thanks for sharing

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