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HOW TO USE “I.E.” AND “E.G.” CORRECTLY


It sometimes hard (and also confusing) to decide whether to use i.e. or e.g. in writing, because they seems to be the same. But, through this article, I will reveal the “secret” about how to use i.e. and e.g. correctly and effectively. Most of the “original” sentences/theories can be found here: here and here.

What to know about i.e. and e.g.

  • e.is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase “id est” meaning “that is” while  e.g. is the abbreviation of the Latin phrase “exempli gratia” meaning “for example”.
  • Use e. when you want to give further explanation for something.
    Example: After work I’ll walk over to the Thunderdome, i.e., the new sports arena a few blocks away.
  • Use g. when you want to give a few examples but not a complete list.
    Example: I love drinking holiday-related beverages, e.g., hot chocolate, apple cider, pumpkin spice lattes.

How to Remember the Difference Between I.e. and E.g.

But by now, I’m sure you know that I’m not going to ask you to remember Latin. I’m going to give you a memory trick. So here’s how I remember the difference. Forget about i.e. standing for “that is” or whatever it really means in Latin. From now on, i.e., which starts with i, means “in other words,” and e.g., which starts with e, means “for example.” I = in other words. E= example.

A few listeners have also written in to say that they remember the difference between i.e. and e.g. by imagining that i.e. means “in essence,” and e.g. sounds like “egg sample,” and those are good memory tricks too.

So now that you have a few tricks for remembering what the abbreviations mean, let’s think about how to use them in a sentence.

E.g. means “for example,” so you use it to introduce an example: I like card games, e.g., bridge and crazy eights. Because I used e.g., you know that I have provided a list of examples of card games that I like. It’s not a finite list of all card games I like; it’s just a few examples.

On the other hand, i.e. means “in other words,” so you use it to introduce a further clarification: I like to play cards, i.e., bridge and crazy eights. Because I used i.e., which introduces a clarification, you know that these are the only card games that I enjoy.

Here are two more examples:

Squiggly loves watching old cartoons (e.g., DuckTales and Tugboat Mickey). The words following e.g. are examples, so you know that these are just some of the old cartoons that Squiggly enjoys.

Squiggly loves watching Donald Duck’s nephews (i.e., Huey, Dewey, and Louie). The words following i.e. provide clarification: they tell you the names of Donald Duck’s three nephews.

An important point is that if I’ve failed, and you’re still confused about when to use each abbreviation, you can always just write out the words “for example” or “in other words.” There’s no rule that says you have to use the abbreviations.

Dos and Don’ts

Don’t italicize i.e. and e.g.; even though they are abbreviations for Latin words, they’ve been used for so long that they’re considered a standard part of the English language. Also, remember that they are abbreviations, so there is always a period after each letter.

Also, I always put a comma after i.e. and e.g. I’ve noticed that my spell checker always freaks out and wants me to remove the comma, but five out of six style guides recommend the comma. Seriously. I got so engrossed in the question of whether a comma is required after i.e. and e.g. that I made a  table for the website summarizing the opinions of six different style guides.

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