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Two Problem Abbreviations


Many people stumble over the use of two simple Latin abbreviations, i.e. and e.g. Here are rules of use that will help to eliminate errors.

  • Don't confuse one for the other.

e.g. stands for exempli gratis, which means "for example." Use e.g. to introduce one or more examples.

If you are not sure if you should use i.e., replace it with "for example." If the sentence retains its original meaning, you can use "e.g."

i.e. stands for "id est," which means "that is." It is used to reword or to provide another explanation. Follow i.e. with an explanation.

If you are not sure if you should use i.e., replace it with "in other words." If the sentence retains its original meaning, you can use "i.e."

  • Use a period after each letter.

    • i.e. and e.g. are abbreviations. A period is required after each letter in American English. Depending on construction, e.g. may also be followed by a colon. Don't leave any spaces between letters and periods.

  • Follow each expression with a comma in American English when the abbreviations are used in their normal roles.

    • Each of the two abbreviations must be preceded and followed by a comma in American English if used within the sentence, and not at the beginning or in parentheses.

    • Each of the two abbreviations must be followed by a comma in American English if used in parenthesis.

  • Don't use etc. following one or more examples after e.g.

  • In professional writing, use these abbreviations only in footnotes or inside parentheses.

Here are a few examples of the correct use of these two Latin abbreviations:

  1. I'll watch anything, e.g. dramas, comedies, sports, news.
  2. He wastes his time on unessential activities (e.g., watching television, talking to his neighbors, reading pulp fiction).
  3. We make our telephone calls to most countries in Western Europe (e.g., Great Britain, France, Spain, Germany) after breakfast.
  4. That great sports classic, i.e., the Superbowl, is approaching quickly.
  5. Expect to receive an invitation to a very unusual party to be held on June 12th, i.e., her birthday.
  6. Most of her mistakes were of one particular type (i.e., addition).


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