i.e. Versus e.g.

What are they?

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You probably recognize “i.e.” and “e.g.” as lowercase letter abbreviations. They are often considered a bit formal; however, the use of these abbreviations is acceptable in informal, technical, research, article and business writing. However, if you are writing a product description, a poem or a work of fiction, these abbreviations are not always appropriate. It is important for you to understand the distinct difference between “i.e.” versus “e.g.,” and realize that the two are not reciprocal.

The term “i.e.”

The Latin term for i.e. is “id est,” and in English it means “that is.” An easy way to use i.e. correctly is to replace it with the phrase “in other words.” If the sentence makes sense, you are using the term properly. Consider the following examples:

Example 1: She decorated the auditorium with pink and white streamers, heart-shaped balloons and Cupid’s arrows for the romantic event, i.e., Valentine’s Day.

Using “i.e.” in Example 1 specifies that the “romantic event” is “Valentine’s Day.”

Example 2: Sean likes to study in a place where he can concentrate, i.e., the school library.

In Example 2, the use of “i.e.” clarifies where Sean likes to study.

The term “e.g.”

The Latin term for e.g. is “exempli gratia,” and in English it means “for example.” Consider the following examples:

Example 3: Raymond loves listening to all types of music on the radio, e.g., classical, country western and reggae.

In Example 3, “e.g.” identifies examples of music genres.

Example 4: Bridget and Raul enjoy playing board games (e.g., Monopoly, Scrabble and Trivial Pursuit).

In Example 4, examples of board games are shown in parenthesis, which is an accepted variation.

Tips to remember when using “i.e.” versus “e.g.”

Tip #1: Do not italicize the abbreviations. They are considered standard English even though they are Latin in origin.

Tip #2: Use a period after each letter of the abbreviation.

Tip #3: Use a comma after the abbreviation, as most official style guides require or prefer the use of one.

Tip #4: Use a comma before the abbreviations unless it begins the sentence.

Tip #5: If a sentence begins with “i.e.” or “e.g.,” use a comma after the abbreviation.

Tip #6: If “i.e.” or “e.g.” are used in parenthesis, use a comma after the abbreviation.

Tip #7: If “i.e.” or “e.g.” are used within a sentence without parenthesis, use a comma before and after the abbreviation.

Tip #8: Do not use “etc.” or “and so on” at the end of a list following “e.g.” because it implies the list is incomplete.