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I am unsure whether to use comma after the example list while using e.g. Any ideas?

these functions, e.g., delay, capacity, throughput, represent better...

or

these functions, e.g., delay, capacity, throughput represent better...

There are other similar questions, but I couldn't find this particular answer in either of them.

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3 Answers

up vote 2 down vote accepted

The sequence e.g., delay, capacity, throughput is an interruption to the sentence and commas both before e.g. and after throughput will make this clear to the reader. You can compensate for the additional comma by omitting the one you have inserted after e.g.

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What about putting this "interruption" in parentheses?

"...these functions (e.g., delay, capacity, throughput) represent better..."

That might help the reader separate the example functions from the rest of the sentence, thereby making it easier to read.

At least one website confirms that parentheses can be used to add examples to a sentence:

Use parentheses to add examples:

  The new photo copier has many features (including scanning options and
  faxing capabilities) that will be most beneficial to us in this office.
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I'd personally say that whether or not you add parentheses depends on how parenthetical you feel the examples are. (Just as they can be used around essentially any sequence that you feel is parenthetical.) –  Neil Coffey Mar 6 '12 at 14:44
    
@NeilCoffey: On the whole, I agree. In this case, though, the words "functions, e.g., delay, capacity, throughput, represent" are quite an eyeful, especially all strung together like that - exascerbated all the more because "delay" can be a noun or verb. Therefore, in the O.P.'s original example, I'd recommend using the parentheses, simply for clarity. But I think you add sound guidance for the general case. (BTW, I appreciated your parenthetical statement about parenthetical statements). –  J.R. Mar 6 '12 at 17:34
    
@J.R. I am using parenthesis before in the same paragraph. Somebody commented that I was using too many of them and it didn't look nice. –  cevel Mar 21 '12 at 14:23
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Remember that the idea of a comma is to represent a pause that is worth representing because it will help the reader to interpret the sentence. Or in other words, you need to strike some balance between (a) representing the syntactically significant pauses that the reader needs to help understand the sentence and (b) adding too much punctuational "clutter" that will simply distract them.

So it really depends whether you personally think that the comma after "e.g." is tending more towards (a) or (b). I personally think it's tending towards (b) and wouldn't generally add the comma. On the other hand, I may well add a colon after the phrase "for example" because in that case there isn't other punctuational clutter nearby so I feel the colon could actually help the reader.

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