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Comma before “for example” — The Complete Guide

Comma before “for example” — The Complete Guide

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While we translate to bridge cultures, we punctuate to link the thoughts of the reader and the writer.

That’s the very reason why punctuation marks and mathematical symbols are on par with each other.

But, languages are also too complex to be fully understood, so it is also natural to get confused about how linguistic devices work, let alone square roots and pis.

To get rid of some of the confusion, we humbly present this article, not on algebraic expressions, but on “comma before ‘for example’.”


When do we need a comma before “for example?”

A comma before “for example” should be placed when it appears in series, and when it parenthetically disrupts the sentence midway or at the end. Whereas, a comma should not come before it when it is used to begin the sentence and when it is used inside open and close parenthetical marks.


The implications of using “for example”

Some ideas are too abstract and complex to be easily and straightforwardly represented by definitions alone.

To reconcile this issue, we make use of examples for the better conveyance of thought so that the audience can make sense of our explanation.

Imagine an English teacher explaining the syntactic tree diagram by just giving definitions without providing any representative elements of the topic.

I bet you can’t last for an hour in that class.

The same is true in research papers wherein the most complex ideas are defined in their subtlest forms but without any particular examples.

Not ideal, right? So there you have it. The reason why we use examples is to assist comprehension and information digestion efficiently.


The abbreviated form of “for example”

By the way, “for example” can be abbreviated into “e.g.” that also takes similar comma rules, which we have also explained in detail here.

“E.g.,” which stands for exempli gratia, is a Latin heirloom that can be faithfully translated into English as “for the sake of example.”

But, most normal people simply refer to it only as “for example.”

(Actually, I prefer reading it “egg sample” because it’s easier and doesn’t sound highfalutin.)

Anyways, let’s now move on to the pre-comma usage before I start talking about eggs, which are totally off-grid.


The necessary comma before “for example”

The pre-comma placement to “for example” is not really as complicated as it seems on the surface.

Comma “rules” aren’t that difficult in general as well, as long as we try to understand them by the heart and soul.

That was a bit cheesy, but indeed, it’s not necessarily rocket science.

Instead, you simply have to focus on the readability and emphasis of your sentence elements to do so.

Three cases prompt the comma placement before “for example.” Let’s look at each of them in detail.


When “for example” is serially listed

This one is like doing your ABCs as this is the most popular function of commas in sentence construction.

Any group of items that we aim to list serially needs to be separated with commas.

We can represent our ideas more clearly by using examples, which we can introduce by using phrases like for instance, for example(,) or such as.

As you can observe, the comma is necessary before “for example” as it is the second element in the serial list.

However, the comma after it, also known as the Oxford comma, is omissible depending on the readability of the words in your list.

The default process is to prioritize readability. Always put a comma if the intended meaning of your list becomes ambiguous without one.

Comma before For Example


When “for example” comes as a mid-sentence parenthesis

In stylistics, a parenthesis is a word, a phrase, a clause, or even a complete sentence that interrupts the flow of the text.

These interruptions serve as emphasizers that help in the process of persuasion because they make the meaning of the text more interesting.

Since these devices are used to simply “add” meaning, hence they can also be referred to as “accessories,” then they are grammatically independent.

If you’ve noticed how I inserted the clause introduced by “hence,” as that one is, in fact, a parenthetical insertion.

Being grammatically, or in particular, syntactically independent means that commas are necessary for setting them off from the rest of the text.

“For example” is used as a parenthetical phrase that introduces specific items or ideas to assist the explanation and representation of thought.

Therefore, a comma should always come before “for example” when it interrupts the sentence in the middle part.

People use humor for several reasons, for example, to gain friends, to improve well-being, or even to cope with diseases.

Apparently, you can stop your sentence on “reasons” and still consider it perfectly grammatical, but then again, it will only make sense with the examples. 

Thus, using the phrase “for example” also accentuates the necessity of sense-making when we create sentences.


When “for example” comes as an end-sentence parenthesis

The third and last case that necessitates a comma before “for example” is when we place it at the end of the sentence.

This is what we call an end-sentence parenthetical insertion, which is also equivalent to sentence-final disjuncts in syntax.

You don’t really have to remember all these technical terms, but I do hope that the point of why we put a pre-comma is already clear at this point.

Not only do commas disambiguate sentences, but they also signal emphasis and drive rhythm.

And we can also say that commas do prevent your readers from being asphyxiated or having a stroke, so they’ve got medicinal purposes too.

Kidding aside, here’s how to use “for example” at the end of a sentence.

Some cancer patients use humor in coping with their disease. They do so by personifying cancer and calling it Mr. Crab or Mr. Hefty, for example.

This type of construction resembles the spoken speech more than the previous structure, so you might want to sparingly use this one in your academic papers.


The incorrect comma usage before “for example”

Since we’ve already looked into the pre-comma insertion, let’s also have some grasp on when we should not use one.

Listed below are the instances that would make the pre-comma insertion incorrect.


When “for example” appears at the beginning of a sentence

Although the Spanish language allows the use of an inverted question mark before a sentence, we still can’t put a pre-sentence comma in English to date.

So, if you accidentally place a comma before “for example” at the beginning of a sentence, it would automatically be interpreted as a typo.

Here’s how to use “for example” at the sentence-initial position.

People ease the burden brought by cancer by using humor against it. For example, they make fun of the medical tools attached to their bodies, as well as their involuntary bodily mechanisms.


When “for example” is enclosed in open and close parenthetical marks

Next, we cannot put a pre-comma to “for example” when it is parenthetically inserted using open and close parenthetical marks.

Doing so would defeat the purpose of your parenthetical symbols.

CORRECT: Some elderly patients (for example, those who are in geriatric wards) have demonstrated interesting research results on happiness.

WRONG: Some elderly patients, (for example, those who are in geriatric wards) have demonstrated interesting research results on happiness.

WRONG: Some elderly patients (, for example, those who are in geriatric wards) have demonstrated interesting research results on happiness.

However, if you’re going to drop your parenthetical marks and replace them with commas, then one must be seen before “for,” as explained in the previous section.


Frequently Asked Questions on Comma Before “For Example”


How do we use “for example” within or in the middle of a sentence?

We can use it midway as a parenthetical insertion before introducing the specific elements together with commas before and after it as in “I’ve named my dogs after some countries, for example, India, Kenya, and Jamaica.”


Can we start a sentence with “for example?”

Yes, we can start a sentence with “for example” as long as the previous sentence or sentences provide the background context. Some people have occupationally tainted jobs. “For example, debt collectors, morticians, and termite exterminators are the most notable ones.”


Is using “like for example” correct?

In formal writing, using “like” and “for example” together is redundant, and therefore, it must always be avoided. But, it is acceptable when your goal is to represent and imitate the spoken speech in texts, especially in casual ones.



Having “for example” in our linguistic repertoire at present is something that we are indebted to the Roman empire which collapsed a millennium and a half ago.

Thus, despite the Latin language being dead as a doornail, we still have to pay respect to it every once in a while.