Abbreviations (like i.e. and e.g.) are nothing new. Even though a lot of young people (and many of their parents, too!) use “text speak,” technically, people have been using abbreviations since time immemorial (a time soooo far back that no one can remember).
Some very, very old abbreviations are so popular that they are still in use today, and i.e. and e.g. are two examples of these. I.e. and e.g. come from Latin, and are often used incorrectly and interchangeably. While their meanings are similar, they’re not the same.
Never fear, the Bespeaking team is here to clear things up!
So what exactly does e.g. mean? E.g. comes from exempli gratia, which is a Latin phrase meaning, “for the sake of example.” Put more simply, e.g. means “for example.” If you use this abbreviation while writing an email, it will be introducing one or more examples.
We need to expand our market into different countries in Western Europe — e.g., Germany and Spain.
He focused on farm animals during veterinary school (e.g., cows and horses).
If e.g. is “for example, ” what does i.e. mean, then? In Latin, i.e. is the abbreviation for id est, which means “that is to say.” I.e., therefore, is for when you want to say something “in other words.” This abbreviation is particularly good when there is another name for a product or place.
Protesters were standing up for their First Amendment rights — i.e., the right to free speech.
My favorite Grammar Girl has an easy way to remember i.e.: think, “in essence”, (in other words), and egg-sample for e.g. This is how I, personally, remember the difference between i.e. and e.g. and it’s kinda fun!
How to Write I.E and E.G.
As you can see throughout this post, i.e. and e.g. are written in lowercase letters when they appear in the middle of a sentence. Periods are placed after each letter, and a comma is also placed after the second period (see here for more comma rules). You can also place parentheses around e.g. or i.e. and their examples, but this is not necessary.
If you love being precise, i.e. and e.g. may be the perfect abbreviations for you! You can provide examples with e.g., and be more precise with i.e. (See that sneaky comma in there, as well?)
Never get i.e. and e.g. confused again! Why not come up with a few examples of i.e and e.g on your own in the comments below?
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