When to Use i.e. Versus e.g.

A common mistake in writing is often found in the usage of i.e. and e.g. It's one we see over and over in this time filled with written communication and love of abbreviations! This short guide is intended to help you know how to correctly use each one.

Their meanings are distinctively different, although many people mistakenly use i.e. and e.g. interchangeably.

 

e.g. The abbreviation "e.g." stands for exempli gratia in Latin, which means "for the sake of example" (or the shortened English version, "for example"). It is used when providing at least one example.
An easy way to remember when to e.g. versus i.e. is to think "example given".

"I've visited a lot of beautiful places, e.g., Colorado, Florida, Costa Rica, Ireland."

"Be sure to keep proper documentation and detailed notes of any exchanges (e.g., letters, phone calls)."

 

i.e. The abbreviation "i.e." stands for id est in Latin, which is translated as "that is". It's used to further explain something.
It may be helpful to think "in explanation".

"I never know what to say when I'm in front of a crowd. I.e., I find myself speechless."

"I believe Frank was trying to do the right thing by us (i.e. he let us know of his intentions to leave the company with as much warning as possible)."

 

As they are abbreviations, they should always be written as i.e. and e.g. not ie and eg, i.e. they should be written with stops (periods) after each letter. Use a comma before the abbreviation unless it is at the start of the sentence or it is contained within parentheses. Use a comma after the abbreviation if that is normally where a comma would be used if you were saying "for example" (e.g.) or "that is" (i.e.).

 

Generally it is recommended to only use these abbreviations when space is limited and at a premium or in informal or technical documentation. Otherwise, it is recommended to write out the full English equivalents, saying such things as "that is", "in other words", "for example", "for instance", and so on as appropriate.

 

Hopefully this guide will help you in knowing when to use the i.e. and e.g. abbreviations and to use them correctly.

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