Like many other languages, English contains a wide array of terminology used to this day that comes directly from Latin. One of those is "e.g." that is still very much present and used in writing often.
The use of "e.g." is common in scholarly and academic writing. We will use "e.g." to introduce an example of something previously mentioned in the text above or not existing anywhere else in the text. The proper use for it is important, so it retains its meaning and is not confused with abbreviations that might be of similar application.
Meaning And Origin Of "e.g."
For a long time, many believed that "e.g." stood for "example given" until the record was set straight and the origin and the true meaning of the abbreviation came to light. The abbreviation 'e.g.' stands for the Latin words "exempli gratia," which translates to "for example." Other meanings are also associated with "e.g.," like "for the sake of example" or "such as."
The origin of the Latin phrase goes back to the 1680s. Exempli was derived from the word "exemplu," which means "example," and Gratia comes from the root of "gwere," a suffixed form of PIE that means "to favor."
Some Abbreviations We Currently Use
A common abbreviation connected and often used alongside 'e.g.' is 'i.e.' This one is used to clarify a previous idea rather than listing examples or lists of the same thing. It is used to simplify an idea or offer it in layman's terms.
Another commonly used abbreviation is "et al.". We often see it in research papers and textbooks with multiple contributors and in the books' bibliographic part. It translates to "the other people," and it is used when the author's count is four or more.
"Circa" is another usual abbreviation that we see used often and not just in the written word, in the spoken word too, when we use it in the context of time, because it means "approximately" or "around" a certain date or period.
There is also "vs." short for "versus". This one is the most widely seen of these among Latin derived abbreviations that can be found in today's speech and written word. And this one I am sure you are familiar with, it means "against" or "as opposed to."
The last one on this list is "etc." It stands for "et cetera" is one of the most useful abbreviations we know. It means "and the rest," or "and others," and most of us have used it in regular speech, sometimes by saying "etc." or just adding "and so on" when speaking.
But enough with origins and Latin words, let's dive in and discover what you need to know to use 'e.g.' in a sentence and other writings correctly.
Why Do We Still Use So Many Latin Abbreviations
The most obvious reason why Latin Abbreviations are still used in today's world is literally for lack of better words. Most of these abbreviations, like "e.g.," have been used by humanity over centuries. Initially, they were used in full, and as times moved forward, and these phrases were too long or awkward for everyday spoken word, they were phased out from speech, but the abbreviated forms were kept for writing.
In formal texts, like academic writing, scientific research, and law, these are still used in their abbreviated form. These abbreviations bring poise and formality to the texts they are used in. They also standardize the style in which certain documents are written, how certain terminology is used and makes knowing about them, and what they mean even more relevant.
How Do We Use The "e.g." Abbreviation Among Others?
The first thing you need to know is that there are manuals that dictate the use of Latin Abbreviations in texts. The associations that rule the use of abbreviations such as "e.g." are the Modern Language Association (MLA) and the American Psychological Association (APA). There is also the Chicago Style for citation.
The APA citation is used in sciences, psychology, and education. The MLA citation style is used in humanities, and the Chicago Style, also known as Turabian Style, is used in fine arts, history, and business texts.
Certain abbreviations can only be used in footnotes of text, inside a parenthesis, or as part of a bibliography. It is rare to see an abbreviation used in the middle or body of a text; you will normally find it towards the end.
However, there are some exceptions depending on which of the manuals you are guided by. For example, the APA allows the use of "e.g." when explaining why something connects to a previous statement or "et al." when referring to a group of authors that exceed the number of four.
Before using any citation form, it is important to check which one is accepted, depending on the audience or publication group where your work will be presented. Regardless of that, there will always be some abbreviations that will be ok for everyone, as long as they are used in the correct context.
The three most common abbreviations shared by all the manuals are these:
- et al.
Some abbreviations are used to give strength to an idea without taking up too much space or diverting the focus of the readers of your main point. These can be seen in legal papers and scientific dissertations. The reason behind this is that some English words or phrases might take a lot more time to reach the point, and one of these Latin Abbreviations will do the trick without overstepping and creating an unnecessary side argument.
If you are a professional, particularly in fields where there is a certain level of formality required for reports and data presentation, knowing how to use "e.g." and many of its relative abbreviations is of great importance.
Some Examples Of "e.g." In A Sentence
- There are many ways to cook an egg (e.g., boiled, scrambled, fried), but I have always preferred it poached.
- Many of the people present disagreed with the result of the assembly, e.g., faculty's professors and deans.
- When I say, e.g., that means I will prove my point with an example.
- Be careful when using abbreviations, "e.g." is generally confused by people with "i.e."
- The Northern States (e.g., Massachusetts, Minnesota, Michigan, Main, among others) have always had a steady economy.
- Keeping healthy life habits (e.g., going to bed early, eating low on fat and sugar) can make the difference between living for twenty more years or not.
- We ought to try harder to understand people's lifestyles and choices before passing judgment, e.g., like the gays, lesbians, and the transgender community.
- I enjoy romantic movies, e.g., "The Notebook," "A Walk To Remember," "Titanic."
- Chinese food was always a favorite, e.g., they would usually have fried rice, egg rolls and made sure to get extra fortune cookies.
- She loves animals; the furrier the better, e.g., cats, dogs, and rabbits.
The Confusion Between "e.g." And "i.e."
E.g., is usually connected to another similar abbreviation, "i.e.," which means "that is." The full form in Latin is "Id est." They both can be used after a sentence that was setting an example or referring to a list of items connected to a text mentioned in parenthesis after a series of points have been made.
Believe it or not, it is a recurrent error for many writers to use "e.g." and "i.e." interchangeably. The best way for you to remember how to separate the two when you write and use them correctly is to think about their functionality in relation to their meaning.
When we use "e.g.," we will be adding more, making a list, setting examples. But, when using "i.e.," we are narrowing something down and singling something out.
Here are some examples of what I mean:
-I have so much to do today, e.g., write a paper, clean my house, do my laundry, water the plants.
-I have so much to do today, i.e., like my house chores that have piled up for days.
What About Punctuation?
Excellent question! When using "e.g.," in a sentence, we don't need to use quotes around it, as you have seen in this article. Also, it is advised to add a comma after it, and it is mandatory to add periods after each one of its letters since it is the abbreviation of two words.
If you use "e.g." in the middle of a sentence to make an example or list items that connect to your point, you should add a comma before, and one after and then proceed with the examples. If you use it inside a parenthesis, the comma at the beginning is not required; in fact, it should not be added.
Do I Ever Have To Use "e.g." In The Long Form?
At this point, we know, "e.g." stands for "exempli gratia" it is likely you would never have to use the entire words that make it up. Nowadays, most people are familiar with "e.g.," and when reading it will know an example is ahead. However, if you had to use the extended form of "e.g." or any of the other Latin derived abbreviations we have seen here, these have to be italicized in the text, and if written by hand, they should be in cursive.
Now, when using the "e.g." abbreviation, we do not need to concern ourselves with italicization or cursive. As long as we use it in the correct place and with the correct punctuation, we should be good to go.
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Shawn Manaher is the founder and CEO of The Content Authority. He's one part content manager, one part writing ninja organizer, and two parts leader of top content creators. You don't even want to know what he calls pancakes.