Friday, November 26, 2010

RE: Today's Writing Tip Is When to Use i.e. and e.g.

Many people are unsure about when to use the abbreviation i.e. and when to use e.g. First, let's look at what these abbreviations stand for.

Contrary to popular belief, the initials i.e. do not stand for Internet Explorer! They stand for “id est," which is Latin for "that is to say" or "in other words." E.g. means "for example" or" such as." Its Latin derivative is "exemplī grātiā .” (If you want to abbreviate Internet Explorer, use the capital letters IE.)

Using these in a sentence, we would say, Darren has a strong background in science (i.e., he has studied physics and chemistry.) Or Darren has an extensive vocabulary (e.g., he can think of 25 different synonyms for awesome or amazing.)

Sometimes these terms can be used interchangeably but other times they can't. A good rule of thumb is to remember that i.e. is a clarification. Christopher is my nephew (i.e., he is my brother's son). We have to use "that is" to explain Christopher's relationship to me. It wouldn't make sense to use e.g.

Note that you always want to insert periods with i.e. and e.g. and then to use a comma afterwards.

Sigrid Macdonald is the author of three books, including Be Your Own Editor, available on Amazon in paperback for $15.79 ( or Kindle ( for $3.99. Buy it directly from me for $9.99 from now until Christmas. Visit

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