Skip to main content

Use examples

Examples help you clarify complex concepts, even in regulations. They are an ideal way to help your readers. In spoken English, when you ask for clarification of something, people often respond by giving you an example. Good examples can substitute for long explanations. The more complex the concept you are writing about, the more you should consider using an example. By giving your audience an example that’s relevant to their situation, you help them relate to your writing.

Avoid using the Latin abbreviations for “for example” (e.g.) and “that is” (i.e.). Few people know what they mean, and they often confuse the two. Write out the lead-in to your example: “for example” or “such as.”

Examples in regulations

The Internal Revenue Service makes extensive use of examples in its regulations throughout 26 CFR Part 1, the regulations on income taxes.

The Environmental Protection Agency also uses examples in its regulations. Here’s one from 40 CFR Part 50, Appendix H - Interpretation of the 1-Hour Primary and Secondary National Ambient Air Quality Standards for Ozone.

Interpretation of Expected Exceedances

The ozone standard states that the expected number of exceedances per year must be less than or equal to 1. The statistical term “expected number” is basically an arithmetic average. The following example explains what it would mean for an area to be in compliance with this type of standard. Suppose a monitoring station records a valid daily maximum hourly average ozone value for every day of the year during the past 3 years. At the end of each year, the number of days with maximum hourly concentrations above 0.12 ppm is determined and this number is averaged with the results of previous years. As long as this average remains “less than or equal to 1,” the area is in compliance.


  • Murawski, Thomas A., Writing Readable Regulations, 1999, Carolina Academic Press Durham, NC, pp. 45-46..