Monday, September 13, 2010

Editorial Tip of the Week: For example, that is...

I.e., e.g., what's the difference? How do you know when to use one as opposed to the other? The quick trick is this: e.g. offers examples of things, i.e. indicates further clarification. The long story is, i.e. and e.g. originate from Latin terms, id est ("that is") and exempli gratia ("for example"), respectively. Or, to put it more simply, just remember that e.g., which starts with an E, gives an example. I.e., which begins with I, is more like saying "in other words."

Let's take it into context. If I were to say, "I like eating seafood, i.e., salmon and scallops," the use of i.e. indicates that I only like salmon and scallops. But if I were to say, "I like eating seafood, e.g., salmon and scallops," the use of e.g. just provides an example. I could also like eating crab and shrimp, and salmon and scallops were just an example of some of the seafood I like.

There are some general rules to remember about using i.e. and e.g.:

- Don't italicize them! Even though they are abbreviations, they are
considered a standard in the English language.

- Always use a period after each letter. They are abbreviations, after

- Use a comma following the use of either abbreviation. Seriously, five out of six style guides recommend it.

In the end, just remember to have fun. If remembering when to use i.e. and when to use e.g. hurts your brain a little too much, or you find yourself constantly doubting and double checking, you can always skimp on the fancy abbreviations and just say "in other words" and "for example."

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