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i.e. vs. e.g. Wait, there’s a difference?

11/10

As an editor I encounter lots of confusion about these teeny tiny abbreviations.

Yes, there is a difference and since I get paid to know stuff like this, I have an easy way to remember which to use. And now you do too.

I.e. comes from the Latin id est and basically means “that is to say” or “in other words.” But to me the easiest way to remember it is with the acronym: “in essence.”

Use i.e. to clarify a statement and make it more specific:

Please use patriotic colors, i.e., red, white and blue, to decorate for the Independence Day celebration.

(Using i.e. lets the reader know they should only use these colors.)

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E.g. comes from the Latin exempli gratia (ig-zem-plee grah-dee-ya) which means “for example” but I find the acronym “example given” easier to remember.


Think of what comes before “e.g.” as the category, and what comes after as some of the things that fit into or describe the category:

They used patriotic colors, e.g., red and blue, to decorate for the Independence Day celebration.

(Using e.g. lets the reader know that red and blue are some examples of the colors used.)

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How to use ‘em:

  • Use a period after each letter
  • Use a comma after the abbreviation*
  • Use lower case letters unless starting a sentence
  • Precede with a comma unless it falls at the beginning of a sentence or in parentheses

*While there’s no absolute rule, nearly every style guide recommends using a comma after i.e. and e.g., including Strunk and White’s Elements of Style, and the Chicago Manual of Style.

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The last word: If you’re still stumped about which to use, you can always just write out the words “for example” or “in other words.” But that’s not nearly as fun.

And for even more fun with i.e. and e.g., check out Grammar Girl’s guide.

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4 Comments leave one →
  1. summer permalink
    11/15 11:23 AM

    luv this clarification. luv your blog. luv all around.

    • Jennifer permalink*
      11/15 11:24 AM

      Aw thanks, luv you too. Even more than CCPs.

  2. 12/04 8:08 PM

    I was wrong today when I used i.e.
    I have mixed emotions, e.g., sadness and shame, for what I did.

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