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Be specific: Use of etc. and including

Authors of scientific papers should be as specific as possible when presenting information to their readers. When authors use “etc.,” or “including,” in their papers, they are indicating that a list of items is not a complete list.

When a list is followed by “etc.,” the author is indicating that there are other items that should be on the list but they are not being identified. This may leave the readers wondering what the other items are and why they are not included in the paper. For example, if I write, “I bought apples, bananas, pears, oranges, etc. for the fruit salad,” the readers may be left wondering what other kinds of fruit were bought and why the ingredients are such as secret. The same is true when “including” is used in a sentence. Let’s look at another statement: “My friends, including Allison, Marissa, and Natalee, were at the party.” The readers know at least three people were there, but who else was in attendance? Use of the word “including” indicates there is more than we are being told.

How can authors correctly convey to their readers that the list they are providing is the full list and nothing has been excluded? The authors can simply name the items, for example, “The rats were placed into one of three groups: Group A, Group B, or Group C.” The authors can also say, “The rats were divided into three groups, namely, Group A, Group B, and Group C.” It is always best to be specific so that readers are not left confused or misinformed.


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