This blog post is for Sarah (by request).
When it comes to grammar, it is a common misconception that can e.g. and i.e. can be used interchangeably like synonyms. In truth, both abbreviations stand for two different (although arguably similar) expressions.
Grasping this difference sets you up for success, be it as a reader comprehending a writer’s intent or as a writer conveying a concept correctly. While e.g. and i.e. aren’t always used in common speak, these abbreviations do make cameo appearances in business and formal documentation.
So, what does e.g. and i.e. mean? What is the real difference between the two? And how can you use both correctly in your writing?
How Do I Use e.g. in a Sentence?
The abbreviation e.g. is short for the Latin phrase exempli gratia. When translated, it means “for the sake of example.”
To introduce examples in your writing, you can lead with e.g. This doesn’t mean you should list off every possibility. In fact, e.g. implies that you only give a handful of examples at best instead of an entire list.
There are so many books I want to read this summer (e.g., Gone with the Wind, Ulysses, Middlemarch) that I’ll have to start reading today to get through my list.
Since school starts next week, we’ll need to buy your school supplies, e.g., pencils and notebooks.
How Do I Use i.e. in a Sentence?
The abbreviation i.e. is short for the Latin phrase id est. When translated, it means “that is to say.” In modern speak, we’d re-translate it as “in other words.”
Instead of listing off examples, you use i.e. in your writing when you want add clarification.
I plan to spend the rest of the afternoon reading the best novel ever published, i.e., Gone with the Wind.
This weekend, I want to go to the mall, watch TV and hang out with my friends (i.e., not do my chores).
How to Remember the Difference Between e.g. and i.e.
An easier way to remember the difference between e.g. and i.e. is applying a mnemonic device for the letters in both abbreviations.
For e.g., think of it as “example(s) given.”
For i.e., think of it as “in essence.”
How to Use e.g. and i.e. Correctly
The abbreviations e.g. and i.e. always appear lowercase (yes, both letters) when they appear in the middle of a sentence (i.e., like in this example). Most style guides recommend applying a period after each letter (yes, both letters) in these abbreviations.
A comma should be added after e.g. or i.e. (whichever you are using in the sentence) and in between each example when more than one example is listed.
Parentheses can enclose e.g. or i.e. and its examples when you want to set your list apart from the rest of the sentence.
While e.g. and i.e. are abbreviations for Latin phrases, italics are not needed when they appear as abbreviations.