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What is the correct form, and why, in scientific papers (US English)?

  • e.g.
  • e. g.
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A thin space is probably optimal if you can use one. IMHO it is generally best to simply avoid such latinisms —most people do not know what they mean, in fact (even among the intended audiences of scientific papers...) –  Mariano Jun 28 '12 at 16:56
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The answer to Correct spelling/italicization of e.g., i.e.? discusses the issue of spaces. I'm most familiar with the "no whitespace" version. I also disagree with Mariano, I think the abbreviations "i.e." and "e.g." are both common and well-understood, especially by a scientific audience, even if the punctuation differs from venue to venue. –  Cameron Jun 28 '12 at 17:11
    
I routinely use these abbreviations, but my experience is that many people don't know what they mean. I often see "i.e." used when the writer clearly meant "for example". (For some reason that annoys me no end. Another of my pet peeves is when someone writes "mute point" when they mean "moot point". Whatever.) –  Jay Jun 28 '12 at 20:41
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2 Answers

A lot depends on which scientific field you're talking about. The style sheets for the Linguistic Society of America and the American Psychological Association, for instance, could hardly be more different.

Me, I always use e.g, ending with a comma or occasionally a colon if it's followed, as usual, by a list of examples. No space necessary, though if you're into beautiful formatting, I agree a thinspace is nice. But the editor will do that automatically if you're publishing on paper, and if they care about typographical beauty. Quite often they don't.

There's no standard on punctuation or typography. Individual rags have individual policies, but if you're not getting paid to follow them, there's no reason to pay them any attention, unless you personally find them agreeable rules to follow.

Especially for scientific papers. In the US, scientists are not expected to be able to write English very well, and that expectation is quite often fulfilled. So there are always editors, many of whom are competent.

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John, do you not use a period after the g? If not, why not? –  JLG Jun 28 '12 at 17:55
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Because I use commas and colons to represent my intonation, and I don't like the look of a useless period followed by a meaningful comma, e.g., the thing to the left in boldface. –  John Lawler Jun 28 '12 at 18:24
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Thank you. I've never seen that. I guess I figure that the g is an abbreviation so it needs its own period. In our publications we use the useless period and the meaningful comma or colon: e.g., or e.g.: –  JLG Jun 28 '12 at 18:29
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Personal preference or not, that full stop after the "g" needs to be there, irrespective of whether it's followed by other punctuation, since it abbreviates the "gratia" in "exempli gratia". Even if many people don't know what it stands for, most would know that it means "for example". –  Amos M. Carpenter Jun 29 '12 at 0:32
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Indeed. With or without the final period. –  John Lawler Jun 29 '12 at 0:50
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Spaces between multiple word abbreviations are usually dropped - see Wikipedia's entry on e.g.. There are plenty of other examples, such as "S.W.A.T.", though sometimes the full stops are dropped altogether, as in "USA" or "UK".

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