We all use abbreviations on a daily basis, whether we realize it or not. It is actually embedded into us. Our desire to be efficient and effective with our communication has always been there, actually.
It dates all the way back to medieval times. Just visit the U.K or Scotland and you will see. Abbreviations are on some of the most historical buildings, which often use abbreviations like est. to represent when the building first originated. In fact, do not be surprised if you walk past some European historical sights and see signs that read est. 1305.
And the proof is in the history. Rather than taking up a ton of unnecessary space on a plaque to fit the entire word established in, they were precise and concise and went with the abbreviated form of the word as well—knowing it would be universally understood for centuries to come.
But the abbreviations do not just stop with the word established. In fact, there are endless abbreviations that we seem to use today. For example, when we write a letter we will likely use Rd. for road or Apt. for an apartment. Or, when we are texting our friend we will likely write lol for laugh out loud or asap for as soon as possible.
The list really can go on and on when it comes to the types of abbreviations we use. But we want to focus on one abbreviation in particular that has been used for centuries and is one that everyone should understand how to use correctly. And that is e.g., which is the example abbreviation.
Here is everything you need to know about e.g., the word example itself and how to intertwine the two forms into your everyday discourse.
Derived from Latin
While Latin may be a dead language, the majority of our words either stem from the Latin language or are influenced largely by it. This is the same for the word example. The Latin word for this is exampli gratia, which is where e.g. is derived from. Now, many people often try to abbreviate the English word example into ex. and that is a grammatical error we want to help as many people avoid making as possible. If you ever want to use the abbreviated version of the example, always use e.g. It is universally understood and has been used this way for centuries. Here are a few examples of how e.g. would play out in written discourse.
My friend likes many types of food, e.g., Mexican, Italian, French and even Moroccan.
I looked in her bag and found all sorts of stuff (e.g. make-up, face masks, hand sanitizer and a water bottle) that I never assumed she used.
Do Not Confuse with i.e.
Another abbreviation that is derived from Latin and frequently used in written discourse is i.e., which stems from the Latin word id est and means “in other words” or “that is” in English. This abbreviation is, totally understandably, confused by many for e.g. but it is important to note the difference. I.e. should really only ever be used in situations that explain a statement, where e.g. is used to list off examples to back up a statement. Here are some situations where the use of i.e. would apply:
The water supply that we get is really hard (i.e. has too many minerals) and is not drinkable.
He wanted to win her back, i.e. get her to fall in love with him again, but was running out of options.
Use Multiple Punctuations with the Abbreviation
This one often gets people confused too, but you should be using multiple forms of punctuation with e.g. if you are doing so correctly. This is because the abbreviation is usually used in the middle of a sentence and then proceeds to list off a range of items. So grammatically, it is one of those rare occasions where a “.” can be followed by a “,”. Here are some common examples of how this would work:
They planned to travel everywhere this year, e.g. Spain, Costa Rica, Canada, Australia, so are already saving every penny they earned.
There were a lot of items to pack (e.g. a sleeping bag, a compass, a flashlight, food, water and clothes) for their camping trip tomorrow.
As you can see from our above tips and guidance, using e.g. is really straightforward to do correctly. Just make sure you use it in the correct context, use the right punctuation associated with it and get the actual abbreviation for example correct!