Mighty Red Pen

August 22, 2010

i.e. vs e.g.

Filed under: Grammar goddess — mighty red pen @ 7:53 pm

So in my experience, the folks who are quick to use i.e. and e.g. also happen to be the ones who have no idea whatsoever how to use them (they especially always want to pair i.e. and e.g. with etc.). So for them, here’s an excerpt from a handy guide from The Oatmeal (which also happens to feature a unicorn, which is always good).

Brians Common Errors in English Usage reminds us:

When you mean “for example,” use e.g. It is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase exempli gratia. When you mean “that is,” use “i.e.” It is an abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est. Either can be used to clarify a preceding statement, the first by example, the second by restating the idea more clearly or expanding upon it. Because these uses are so similar, the two abbreviations are easily confused. If you just stick with good old English “for example” and “that is” you won’t give anyone a chance to sneer at you. If you insist on using the abbreviation, perhaps “example given” will remind you to use “e.g.,” while “in effect” suggests “I.E.”

Since e.g. indicates a partial list, it is redundant to add “etc.” at the end of a list introduced by this abbreviation.

Garner’s Modern American Usage also notes for e.g. (with a similar note about i.e.):

As with other familiar Latin phrases . . . e.g. is not italicized. . . . And like the others, it is best confined to lists, parenthetical matter, and citations rather than in text, where some substitute such as for example is more natural <it goes well with fruit, such as peaches or apricots>.

Second up from The Oatmeal, here is “The Twitter Spelling Test.” Have fun with that.


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