Do you know what "id est" and "exempli gratia" mean? These are the two terms frequently mixed up when abbreviated: i.e. and e.g. But how can we remember the difference?
i.e. is short for "id est" and means "that is", "in other words", "namely", "meaning". It restates an expression or word more clearly or offers more information.
- The warranty includes e-mail support during office hours, i.e., between 9.00 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Tip: If you can replace i.e. with "in other words", your sentence should be correct.
e.g. is short for "exempli gratia" and means "for example". It introduces one or more examples that illustrate what was said before.
- We recommend easy-to-use fonts for your website, e.g., Verdana and Georgia.
Tip: e.g. implies that you offer a partial list by example. "etc" at the end of the list is therefore unnecessary.
If you have problems remembering the difference between i.e. and e.g., you can use a mnemonic. I like the tips offered by Mignon Fogarty, the grammar girl:*
- i.e. begins with i >> I= In other words
- e.g. begins with e >> E= example
If that does not do it for you, you could use another simple mnemonic: the essence and the egg.
- i.e. = in essence
- e.g. = eggsample
In technical writing, we favor the English expressions "that is" and "for example". They are easy to read and cannot be misunderstood.
i.e. and e.g. are always preceded by a comma (or sometimes set off with brackets or hyphens). Most American style guides recommend that they are followed by a comma. British English usually omits the following comma.
- I prefer red vegetables, e.g.[,] tomatoes.
- I prefer red vegetables (e.g.[,] tomatoes) but cucumbers too.
- I prefer red vegetables ─ e.g.[,] tomatoes ─ but like cucumbers as well.
We favor the recommendations of American style guides and let a comma follow.
- I prefer red vegetables, e.g., tomatoes.
- I prefer red vegetable, for example, tomatoes.
This blog article was inspired by a video with the editor Peter Sukolowski who speaks about the most searched abbreviations at the Merriam Webster online dictionary: e.g. and i.e.