Aha! I finally get it!
What might cause a sudden burst of understanding? Often, it’s an example. For example, for instance, such as, by way of illustration—there are so many expressions to introduce examples, but they take up so much space. Is there a shorter, more concise way of setting up examples? Yes! The abbreviation e.g. may be just the thing.
Here’s a tip: E.g. is an abbreviation of a latin term that means “for example.” Use it for listing examples, not for listing specific clarifications.
It might seem strange that an abbreviation that means “for example” uses the letters E and G, but not when you learn that it derives from the Latin phrase “exemplī grātiā.” Unless you speak Latin, it might be helpful to think of e.g. as “example given.” The Merriam-Webster Dictionary reports that e.g. is in the top 1 percent of all words searched in their online dictionary. A lot of people want to know what it means! Now you know, but how do you use it? Looking at some real-life examples from around the web might help you with the do’s and don’ts of this abbreviation.
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Is it possible to display open ended responses in different formats, e.g. word cloud?
Are there a list of medical resources (e.g., UpToDate) that I could upload on my phone and do you have instructions to do so?
My student’s home school coursework is on another school’s transcript (e.g., public or private high school). Will that be sufficient?
First of all, all the writers deserve commendation. All of them use e.g. to present examples. However, you will notice some variance in the use of punctuation. Here are the general usage guidelines:
- Parentheses are optional unless you want to set the examples apart from the rest of the sentence.
- You don’t need to italicize e.g. as you would a foreign word.
- E.g. is an abbreviation, so you do need the periods after each letter.
- Most of the time, a comma should follow e.g. If you are introducing a list that is particularly long or confusing because of punctuation, you may want to separate the items with semicolons.
- You may use e.g. to introduce a single example or multiple examples.
- There is no space between the letters and periods.
- Don’t confuse e.g. with i.e. They are not the same!
Not all style guides agree on these guidelines. For example, the Texas Law Review Manual on Usage and Style requires writers to italicize Latin-derived abbreviations. Fowler’s Modern English Usage advised against commas after e.g. There are also informal exceptions, such as when British writers omit the periods. In older literature, you may see ex.gr., though this form is now out of fashion. If you are writing in a formal context, you should definitely consult the recommended style guide.
Since e.g. introduces one or more examples, you may be wondering if you should add “etc.” to the end of an incomplete list. Etc. would be unnecessary because e.g. doesn’t indicate a comprehensive list. E.g. introduces one or more examples, but leaves open the possibility of others. E.g. also doesn’t always precede a list of items. An example might be an illustration of a point as seen from these examples on BusinessDictionary.com:
School districts should cancel classes when the weather is too dangerous for children to be in, e.g. when the roads are covered with ice or when wind chills are near zero.
As soon as Marty worked through the basic algebra problems, he was able to move to intermediate algebra, where he learned graphing, e.g. how to find X and Y on a two axis plane and mark those points.
When you read a text aloud, how should you pronounce the abbreviation? Once again, no Latin knowledge is necessary. You can either say the letters “EG” or you can read it out as “for example.”
Have you had your aha moment? You now know more than most people about this useful abbreviation. If you think you understand how e.g. works, why not test yourself by writing a few sample sentences. After all, don’t examples help you learn?
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