- For example, you can say, "We could use cupcakes, cookies, etc." This shows that they can use any kind of dessert, and it could be rewritten by, "We could use cupcakes, cookies, and so on."
- However, you cannot say, "Bring hamburger buns, paper plates, cupcakes, etc.", because the items on the list are not the same and the person you're talking to would not know what you are referring to.
- Items of the same class do not need to be physical items. They can be emotions, or other forms of "things." For example, you could say, "Please write down your three primary emotions today (sadness, anger, fear, etc.)"
Do not use an introductory phrase for a list, such as "such as" or "for example," along with etc. You cannot say, "Bring items such as cake, chocolates, ice cream, etc. to the party," because "such as" already implies that you are not talking about a complete list. You can simply say, "Bring items such as cake, chocolates, and ice cream to the party" or "Bring cake, chocolates, ice cream, etc. to the party."
Do not use "etc." more than once in a sentence. Though some people think it's cute to use "etc." more than once in a sentence to stress the fact that many additional items are needed, just one "etc." will suffice. Saying something like, "I have to do the dishes, wash the car, clean my room, etc., etc., etc., before the party" is never correct.
Do not use "and" before "etc." Since the "et" in "et cetera" already means "and," it would be redundant to use the phrase "and etc." because you'll really be saying, "and and the rest." Make sure to avoid using "and" when using "etc."
Do not use "etc." if you're discussing a specific list of items that are needed and not anything more. If you only need cookies, cake, and donuts for the party, writing "cookies, cake, donuts, etc." will not be appropriate because it will give the reader the assumption that he can bring another dessert.
Do not use "etc." to refer to people. "Etc." can only refer to things; "et al." is used to refer to people. You cannot say, "I can't help but get annoyed by my younger cousins – Mary, Joe, Sue, etc. – though I try to be nice to them." Instead, you can say, "I can't help but get annoyed by my younger cousins – Mary, Joe, Sue et al. – though I try to be nice to them." In this example, you are using "et al.", which means "and others," to refer to the other annoying younger cousins.
- Be careful how you pronounce et cetera. If you're in the habit of saying "ek-SET-ra", it's time to kick out the "k" sound! The real pronunciation is "eht-SEHT-er-uh."
- "They ate cookies, cakes, peanuts, fairy floss, etc., and it's little wonder they ended up with stomach aches."
- Put a question mark after the period in "etc."
- Put an exclamation point immediately after the period.
- Put the semicolon in right after the period and put a space between it and the next word.
- Put parentheses around the items you are using along with etc. when necessary. For example: "Students should not pack liquids in their carry-on bags (water, shampoo, makeup remover, etc.)"
I would recommend not using etc. in an academic paper. And if you do, please be sure you are using it correctly. See this good explanation about using etc. Here's an excerpt:
It isn’t that writing that contains et al. or etc. is bad writing, it’s just that it is completely possible to construct meaningful sentences without using them. In fact, in most cases, it is probably preferable not to use them since both are badly overused, and technically speaking, they have definite meanings and specific usages that often do not apply in the cases they are used. More specifically, etc. is NOT to be used to complete a clause that starts with such as or for example.
To use etcetera in a sentence is to imply that the the reader already knows the rest of the set it is referring to, not, as it is so often used, as a placeholder for an undefined set. (Note that etc. is fine to use when referring to an infinite set, which is, by definition, a known set.)
As an editor, I would almost always ask for a revision of a sentence that contains etc. It usually can be reworded more precisely and better without using this word. And quite honestly, many authors use it incorrectly.