In the text, I have, e.g.

"...a major role to play in role-playing (Smith et al., 1990)."

But can I use the same abbreviation in the bibliography?

Smith, K. et al. 1990. Playing major roles in role plays. Psych. Econ. 44(1): 103–113.

I ask because the bibliopgraphy is now 12,000+ words and the only way I can think to shorten it is to remove those thousands of co-authors. Here it says you can, but it's for books.

  • 1
    It depends on the style guide you're using.
    – Matt Ellen
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 15:08
  • 1
    What style guide do you use? In APA you cannot. In fact you cannot use it the first time you mention that source in text, either. I strongly recommend that you pick up a copy of the Manual in your library. It's chock full of examples.
    – user5645
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 17:41

2 Answers 2


In APA you can use et al for in-text citations IF the cited work has 6 or more authors.

In fact, don't take my word for it. Read this article from the APA.


The simple answer is yes!

The purpose of a reference is so that you can find a document where you got the source from.

So unless Smith, K did two pieces with the same name, with different co-authors (on the same pages in the same journal!) then anyone interested is going to be able to find that document.

  • In APA this is wrong.
    – user5645
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 17:45
  • @what that's what I get for thinking it's simple ;)
    – Michael B
    Commented Jul 20, 2015 at 17:55
  • I like the simple approach. Since this is a stand-alone book, not part of a series with a pre-set citation system, I have some leeway. In the text, we won't be using (Smith et al.) anyway, but a number [2], which will correspond to 2. Smith et al. in the bibliography. If the purpose of referencing is so people can look it up, and not to give recognition to every author, then et al. seems a practical solution to the problem of a 12,000-word bibliography (in a 30,000 word book).
    – user14607
    Commented Jul 21, 2015 at 8:27

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