I'm looking at a text that regularly uses "e.g." in place of "for example", such as the following:

"This parallel composition can be transparently split between two cores, allowing, e.g., for faster execution".

(Ignore what the sentence is about. It's bogus and completely made up.)

The use of "e.g." in that sentence sounds really wrong to my ear, but I'm trying to understand why it is so.

I don't find a lot on the topic. I've been searching online, and on stackexchange, for posts that justify why it is or isn't wrong. Most posts and questions ask about the difference between 'i.e.' and 'e.g.', or try to explain the etymology of "e.g.", or present positive examples (e.g., 'use it when enumerating'), but present no examples of wrong usage.

Can anyone explain if the above usage is wrong, and a reputable source that clearly explains why?

Also, is there an appropriate rule of thumb to understand which cases are wrong? I can think of the following: If you cannot remove "e.g.," and the example(s) that follow and obtain a grammatically correct sentence, then it's definitely wrong. However, even if this rule of thumb is correct, it's not complete. For instance, I cannot replace the use of 'for example' at the beginning of this very sentence with 'e.g.'

Near duplicates:

I've left a comment in one of those because the answer agrees with what I say but does not really explain why. However, the answer has already been accepted, and I doubt there would be any activity at this point.

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    Some people think that 'eg' should be avoided completely. Few, I'd say, think that it's completely interchangeable with 'for example' even in informal writing. I'd say that it's only idiomatic when introducing one or more examples. The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition implies this. Also, Random House Unabridged Dictionary, © Random House, Inc. 2018 (op cit) gives 'such as' as a synonym; if a close synonym, this precludes sentences such as the one you give. The reason? It's what most people consider correct. The logic involved? Nil. – Edwin Ashworth May 24 '18 at 23:03
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    I think I would find that sentence just as awkward with "for example": "This parallel composition can be transparently split between two cores, allowing, for example, for faster execution". – sumelic May 24 '18 at 23:12
  • @sumelic I dunno, sounds fine to me. Too many commas, sure, but nothing wrong with that as long as they're properly used. "e.g.", on the other hand, does seem odd. – AleksandrH May 24 '18 at 23:16
  • @sumelic I'd want '... allowing for, for example, ...' because 'allow for' is pretty cohesive if not actually a MWV. But then the for for looks off, and 'allowing for' has to be read as 'not the making an allowance on behalf of sense'. Not a great example. – Edwin Ashworth May 24 '18 at 23:24
  • Yeah, my bad. It's not a great example : / But I think you do get the point of what I'm trying to say. What would make a better example? I can change it in the original question. – Ivan Perez May 25 '18 at 10:45

None of the style guides I'm familiar with have anything to say specifically about why e.g. or i.e. shouldn't be used.

(Most do suggest it's better to use full words, especially in any kind of formal writing. I find this somewhat ironic, since it's people who read formal text who are more likely to understand the correct usage of i.e. and e.g.)

However, the UK Government actually does provide a few justifications:

‘eg’ can sometimes be read aloud as ‘egg’ by screen reading software. Instead use ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ or 'like' or ‘including’ - whichever works best in the specific context.

‘ie’ - used to clarify a sentence - isn’t always well understood. Try (re)writing sentences to avoid the need to use it. If that isn’t possible, use an alternative such as ‘meaning’ or ‘that is’.

(Note that in the UK it's not uncommon to see the abbreviations used without periods.)

While the explanation given for avoiding e.g. might sound "stupid" to some people (there are many such comments in response to the government's style decision at the end of the linked web page), it at least is a reason—regardless of such debate.

The reason given for avoiding i.e. seems to be more applicable in general—it's simply not "always well understood."

Personally, I continue to see confusion over the use of e.g. and i.e. I wouldn't be surprised if at least part of the shift away from using the two-letter forms is to avoid their misuse. (Although that's just speculation, since no other style guides I'm aware of mention that specifically.)

However, the use of these abbreviations is probably contraindicated by a growing style of writing called plain language, one in which it's preferable to use words and syntax as simply as possible while still retaining the meaning of what's being communicated. Everything being equal, if nobody is confused by for example or for instance, but some are confused by e.g. or i.e. (or, even if they're not confused, it takes them a bit longer to parse sentences with the abbreviations), then it would be beneficial to a general audience to simply avoid the abbreviations.

There are certain conventions of style that are commonly followed, but specifics depend on particular style guides.

According to The Chicago Manual of Style (6.51), for instance, the initial example that you gave in your question is incorrect because

in formal writing, Chicago prefers to confine the abbreviations i.e. (“that is”) and e.g. (“for example”) to parentheses or notes, where they are followed by a comma.

Which would mean that your sentence, according to Chicago, should be rephrased as something like this:

This parallel composition can be transparently split between two cores, allowing several benefits (e.g., faster execution).

Note that in order to get e.g. inside parentheses with an example I had to shift things around slightly (and add some words). This stylistic guideline will "force" certain sentence structures that would not be required with the actual words for example.

Also note that there are some actual rules of grammar (not style) that preclude e.g. from being used in every place that for example can be used—but you provide links to those discussions in your question. (For instance, the first link explains why I had to give an item after e.g. in my rephrased version of your sentence.)

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    This doesn't really go further than answers in previous threads. – Edwin Ashworth May 25 '18 at 8:48

Although it seems you already know the etymology, I will briefly explain because the answer is contained within the etymology.

  • e.g. = exempli gratia = for the sake of example ≈ for example

  • i.e. = id est = that is

  • et al. = et alia = and other (people)

  • etc. = et cetera = and other (such things)

These are all examples of abbreviations of Latin phrases. They should be used exactly as their English counterparts would be. Act as if you are bilingual and code switching. Limitations on use are a matter of personal preference and style.

Isn't this a case of the etymologic or genetic fallacy?

The etymologic fallacy does not apply because these are not words that have taken on a meaning of their own since entering English. They are abbreviations of Latin phrases that continue to be used in a manner consistent with their original meaning. The definition of e.g. is stated simply as "for example". Particular usage is left to reason within the constraints established by the definition, that is, it is matter of personal preference and style.

The genetic fallacy will apply when e.g. becomes an independent word with meaning that differs significantly from "for example". Before that happens, they will cease to resemble abbreviations by having their periods dropped.

This use... sounds really wrong...

Some people will give various examples of sentences in which they think for example is acceptable, but e.g. isn't. That they would not do something a particular way does not mean it is incorrect to do so. They are simply prescribing their own personal style choice. Regardless, the examples they come up with are dubious in English to begin with. Reasonable people simply do not utter such sentences unless they are trying to come up with sentences no one would say in the first place.

Often, use of these abbreviations is an affect people use to appear more intelligent. This is especially clear when there is no awareness of the actual meaning of the phrases (for instance, switching "i.e." and "e.g.") or when they are used in spoken language (pronouncing the letters "AI-EE"/"EE-GEE"). People come up with all sorts of "rules" that are merely conjectures based on misunderstanding or hypercorrection.

Reasons acceptable uses may sound "wrong" are likely related to familiarity.


  • If you are beholden to a particular style guide, use it. Some state that these abbreviations must be placed only at the beginning of a parenthetical clause. This is only the preference stated in those style guides. It is not incorrect to not use parentheses when the style guide is not in effect.

  • Even if a style guide does not explicitly state so, preferred English usage is to avoid all expressions and constructs that people generally find confusing. The purpose of style guides is to promote clear communication. No one can reasonably fault anyone for writing clearly while not using foreign expressions.

  • Many style guides appear to now advise against italicizing. That was not the case not that many years ago.

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    '[T]hey should be used exactly as their English counterparts would be used' merely assumes the answer, and I don't agree with this answer. I'd never write 'He likes really fast cars – The Bugatti Veyron, eg'. Blindly assuming that etymology completely governs accepted modern usage even has a name – the etymological fallacy. – Edwin Ashworth May 25 '18 at 8:44
  • I believe none of these points really address what I'm asking. The fact that they are Latin phrases is beyond the point: I am asking if they are incorrect. The idea of using them as their English counterparts seems also wrong, and Edwin explains this well. I hope the use of expressions from multiple foreign languages is perfectly ok, since too many foreign expressions and words are common in written English. Regarding the "sounds really wrong to my ear", I has nothing to do with subvocalization or familiarity but, rather, language rules that I have internalized but cannot formalize. – Ivan Perez May 25 '18 at 10:57
  • The use of "e.g." matches the use of "for example" because the definition of "e.g." is "for example". This explains both undisputably proper and improper uses of "e.g." It also explains why there is disagreement about some uses of "e.g."—people also disagree about the same uses of "for example". It's just that not everyone who disputes a use of one necessarily disputes the same use of the other. You cannot formalize these complex "rules" because they are stylistic preferences, not rules. They feel "wrong" the same way a coworker's flashy tie or shoes feels "wrong", but yours don't. – xiota May 25 '18 at 11:52
  • There are plenty of cases where words are almost exact synonyms and yet cannot be used in the same way in all situations. Just because eg and for example mean the same thing does not mean they are always interchangeable. – user184130 Jul 25 '18 at 12:21

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