Special words exist in English for naming one or some members of a general class without giving further details
DEFINITION OF SIMPLE EXAMPLE-GIVING
Example-giving is naming one or more – but not all – of the members of a class. These class members must not have been chosen because they are special in any way; their choice must be random. They normally have to accompany the name of the class. For instance, cats or cats and dogs given as examples might be found alongside the class name animals.
Example-giving is not the only way to talk about a general idea – see, for example, 55. Sentence Lists 2: Main-Message, 117. Saying More Precisely What is Meant and 162. The Language of Classification. However, only example-giving always needs to randomly select the class members it mentions.
When we randomly mention one or some of the members of a class, we may or may not say something about them. Not saying anything about them is what I mean by “simple” example-giving. Here is an example:
(c) Air pollutants, such as sulphur dioxide, cause many problems.
Here, sulphur dioxide is simply named as one of the members of the class of air pollutants, with nothing more said about it (cause many problems is information about air pollutants in general, not just sulphur dioxide).
This post is about language choices in simple example-giving. Language choices in other example-giving are considered in the post 33. Complex Example-Giving. Also relevant are 53. “As”, “Like” and “Such As”, which looks more closely at three of the example-giving expressions presented here, and 96. Hedging 2: Lists & Predictions, which suggests some reasons for giving examples.
THE CHALLENGE OF SIMPLE-EXAMPLE GIVING
The two basic requirements for simple example-giving – the class name and the actual example(s) – can be placed either together in the same sentence or separately in multiple sentences. In this respect, simple example-giving resembles other two-idea messages considered within these pages, such as expressing a consequence, clarifying a general idea, naming a similarity and classifying. The two example-giving possibilities may be illustrated like this:
(d) (ONE SENTENCE) Pollution causes many problems, for example illness.
(e) (TWO SENTENCES) Pollution causes many problems. One is illness.
Deciding whether or not to place the example(s) in the same sentence as the class name is the main linguistic judgement to make in simple example-giving. There is also a choice to be made of suitable example-showing language. If this language is chosen first, there will usually be no choice about which sentence the example is given in, but leaving the language choice until later allows more freedom in this matter.
LANGUAGE FOR SHOWING SIMPLE EXAMPLES
Various words and phrases typically show that a simple example is being given. Some are only possible when the example(s) are given in the same sentence as the general class name, while others must accompany new-sentence example-giving.
1. Words Accompanying Examples in the Same Sentence as their Class
The main words of this type are for example, for instance, e.g., including, such as, like, as, include, illustrated by, say and etc. Two of these, e.g. and etc., are Latin abbreviations explained in more detail in the post 130. Formal Abbreviations.
For example and for instance need a comma before them and no comma after. This is different from their use in complex example-giving, where they do normally have a following comma (see 33. Complex Example-Giving). A comma before and none after is also needed by e.g. and including. However, such as, like and as only sometimes have a preceding comma – for more see 53. “As”, “Like” and “Such as”. As by itself usually has a following preposition in example-giving.
Say and etc normally follow the example(s) that they indicate, as do synonyms of etc like among others, and others, and so on, and suchlike and to name but a few (but not “three dots” […], which are more “Continental” than English – see 59. Paragraph Length). Very importantly, etc and its synonyms cannot be combined with other example-showing expressions (see 24. Good and Bad Repetition and 138. Test your Command of Grammar). The two commonest ways of simple example-giving with them look like this:
(f) There are various Romance languages: French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.
(g) (The) Romance languages are French, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.
In these sentences, the name of the general class containing the examples is Romance languages. The examples are linked to it just as complete lists are without etc.: with either a colon as in (f) or a linking verb (mostly are) as in (g) (see 55. Sentence Lists 2 and 17. Colons versus Semi-Colons). With a colon, etc requires the general class name to have a vague number word before it like various, several or numerous. When a linking verb is used, it should not itself be example-showing like INCLUDE.
2.Words Accompanying Examples Given in a New Sentence
Most of these form phrases containing a verb (underlined below). This is logical because any new sentence must have its own verb (see 30. When to Write a Full Stop). Useful expressions are:
one is …
an example is … (examples are …)
… is an example.
… is a case in point
they/these include …
they/these are illustrated by …
among these are …
these are … , etc.
For a particular way of using one is …, see 122. Signpost Words in Multi-Sentence Lists. For a use of is an example which is not example-giving, see 162. The Language of Classification. Note that etc. and its synonyms again cannot be combined with other example-giving expressions.
Some writers, when deciding to give a simple example, may think of both the example and the example-showing language at the same time. If so, they have to use the punctuation that goes with the language they have thought of. For example, thinking of of such as at the moment of choosing the example means that the example must go into the same sentence as the class name – it cannot go anywhere else – and conversely an example after one is must be in a new sentence after a full stop.
On the other hand, it is possible to think of an example without at the same time thinking of accompanying example-showing language. Then there is more choice about the punctuation. You can either decide to put the example into a new sentence, and only afterwards choose an appropriate example-showing expression (from the second list above), or you can decide not to have a new sentence, choosing your expression from the first list as a result.
The decision to start or not start a new sentence would here be determined not by a prior language choice, but by something else. Sentence length is one possibility. An alternative that is worth bearing in mind is paraphrase of another writer’s words, since this needs to involve structural change rather than (or as well as) simple word substitution (see 80. How to Paraphrase). If, for example, the other writer used single-sentence example-giving, you could aim to convert it to the other kind. This kind of conscious decision-making must surely be the better approach, and the one that most successful writers will use.
PRACTICE EXERCISE: EXAMPLE LANGUAGE AND SENTENCE STRUCTURE
Readers wishing to strengthen their understanding and retention of the various points made above are invited to try the following practice exercise, in which sentences have to be completed as instructed. The example language that is chosen should be as varied as possible. Answers are provided afterwards.
1. Give an example country in the same sentence:
Portuguese is spoken in many countries outside Portugal, _____________ .
2. Give an example country in a new sentence:
French is spoken in many countries outside France. ________________.
3. Give TWO example numbers in a new sentence:
Some numbers cannot be divided by any other numbers except themselves and one. __________________________________.
4. Give TWO example conjunctions in the same sentence.
A conjunction is a word that enables two verbs to exist together in one sentence, ______________________.
5. Write a possible beginning of this sentence:
Exercise ____________________________ , like preventing heart disease.
6. Give an example of a vocabulary-learning strategy in the same sentence.
Vocabulary learning requires numerous strategies, _________________.
7. Complete this sentence using “a case in point”.
Ancient Greek thinkers still influence academic subjects today. _________ .
8. Complete this sentence in any suitable way.
Dictionaries are an important aid to language learning. Their uses _______________________ their helpfulness with word pronunciation.
ANSWERS (look particularly at the grammar of these sentences, rather than the actual examples chosen).
1. Portuguese is spoken in many countries outside Portugal, for example Brazil.
2. French is spoken in many countries outside France. One is (or An example is) Algeria.
3. Some numbers cannot be divided by any other numbers except themselves and one. Examples (or Among them) are 7 and 13.
4. A conjunction is a word that enables two verbs to exist together in one sentence, such as (or like or for example or e.g.) “but” and/or “when”.
5. Exercise has numerous benefits, like preventing heart disease. (Although this example contains the verb preventing, the -ing makes a same-sentence example necessary)
6. Vocabulary learning requires numerous strategies, e.g. using a dictionary. (Although this example contains the verb using, the -ing makes a same-sentence example necessary)
7. Ancient Greek thinkers still influence academic subjects today. Aristotle is a case in point.
8. Dictionaries are an important aid to language learning. Their uses include (or are illustrated by) their helpfulness with word pronunciation.