I.e. vs. E.g.

Posted: March 17th, 2014, 9:00 am   By: brittany.corners

“It is I, Dale Gribble, man of a thousand faces. You just met face two: the deaf electrician. I couldn’t help but overhear your uncle’s bad advice. The only thing your roommates, i.e., enemy, understand is psychological warfare, i.e., dirty tricks. It worked for Dick Nixon.”—Hank Hill’s pal, explaining how to deal with bad roommates

This week, we explore the difference between the commonly misused abbreviations i.e. and e.g.

Both i.e. and e.g. come to English from Latin, which once served as the tongue of the formerly formidable Roman Empire. Over the centuries, Latin’s popularity has slowly been reduced to contemporary usage in mostly academia and misguided tattoos. However, modern English vocabulary still reflects a tremendous amount of influence from Latin—but because we no longer study Latin in school, writers often make mistakes with i.e. and e.g.

That is = i.e.

The Latin phrase id est—abbreviated as i.e.—translates to “that is” in English. Here’s an easy way to keep this straight: “i.e.” starts with “i” and essentially means “in other words.”

  • Ex) Kitty found that today’s playtime revealed a hard truth, i.e., sometimes the man behind the curtain is right in front of you.
  • Ex) If you want to date the insufferable Gina Rio, you better bring a hefty bankroll (i.e., try your darndest not to be “poor”).

For example = e.g.

The abbreviation e.g. stands for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means “for example.” Remember this by focusing on the fact that “e.g.” starts with “e” and so does “example.”

  • Ex) For throwing ragers with his grandmothers, Larry prefers premier hotels, e.g., the historic Travelodge in downtown Schenectady.
  • Ex) Dating pro tip: I take all best game-spitting lines from “Blind Date” (e.g., “It’s your life, take a chance.”).

Some Simple Guidelines

  • Do not italicize the abbreviations.
  • Use a period after each letter, because each letter stands for a word.
  • Always use a comma after each abbreviation.
  • Put a comma before each abbreviation—unless it begins a parenthetical statement.