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When And How Should You Use i.e. & e.g. In A Sentence?

Have you seen or heard others use the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. and felt envious or bewildered?

Many people have only a vague understanding of e.g. and i.e.—enough familiarity to gather what is meant by it, but not enough to use it confidently themselves. Read on for a simple straightforward explanation of the elusive Latin abbreviations.

e.g. is an abbreviation of exempli gratia, which means “for example.”
Use e.g. before listing examples of the previous statement.
I write poetry and prose in my journals, but they also serve other purposes; e.g. calculating gratuity.

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i.e. is an abbreviation of id est; translation: “that is.”
Use i.e. before clarifying or adding to the previous statement.
When I went on vacation last week, I brought my favorite writing journal; i.e., the one with the beaded cover.

Our preferred reference manual, i.e. Gregg Reference Manual, suggests:
“Use the abbreviated forms e.g. and i.e. only in informal, technical, or ‘expedient’ documents (such as business forms, catalogs, and routine e-mail messages, memos, and letters between business offices).”

NOTE: Do not italicize i.e. and e.g. Although they are abbreviations for Latin words, they are considered standard English because they’ve been in use for so long. Don’t leave out the periods though. Remember, they are abbreviations!

15 Responses to When And How Should You Use i.e. & e.g. In A Sentence?

  1. Does the i.e., phrase have to end the sentence? Or what punctuation may I use to continue….?

    “The planning documents; i.e., the FEIS, and earlier REAP’s – contain lists of prope…”

    forgot the example.

  2. Ben is correct. There is _no justification_ for using Latin abbreviations in English writing in 2018. It’s one of many obsolete conventions/habits that mindfulness can keep one from repeating, especially now that type is no longer set in lead a letter at a time.

    Likewise the pop-grammarian prohibition against splitting infinitives (example: “to boldly go”). That prohibition was based on the bizarre logic that since infinitives in Latin are single words, they should be kept as their contiguous two-word equivalents in English.

  3. Sometimes we become so critical of someone else’s written text that we tend to forget the basic, and important, purpose of the text. That purpose is for the text to accurately and completely convey information from one person to two or more other persons. If the information happens to be unambiguous and completely understandable by the recipients of that text, regardless of its technical accuracy, then its purpose has been fulfilled. True, as intelligent and caring beings, we would all prefer that our written text be technically correct and accurate, those attributes are not the only things which makes the text authentic and enjoyable to read.

  4. Thank you, Ben. Forcing a reader to stop and translate your writing, however briefly, is RUDE! As a technical writer, I find far too little consideration for the reader in most writing,technical or not. Use “i.e.” and “e.g.” only in references, such as footnotes and endnotes.

  5. Hi Saniya,

    The Chicago Manual of Style frowns on using i.e. in text, but, if you do, you would type i.e., not “i.e” and the 2nd period should be followed by a comma.

  6. A different perspective:
    As a court reporter and part-time proofreader of transcripts of the spoken word, it bears noting that that is at least one reason for why we are using these. The reality that a writer may be quoting an oral comment is cause enough to have some consistency in our practice.

    Anyway, thank you for this post!

  7. Does this sentence use i.e in a right way?
    “But this is failing to address the overall cause of the problem, i.e that examiners persist in producing bad exams which don’t take into account the needs of the students taking them.”

  8. Why not just write: When I went on vacation last week, I brought my favorite writing journal,the one with the beaded cover.

    A simple comma is plain enough; no need for i.e. or e.g. in many constructions.

    “Such as” and “for example” are just as fine too.

  9. Why are we using these at all? I mean I like knowing where words came from and their often latin roots, but for the sake of limiting potentially perceived obfuscation, would it be that hard to type out “that is” and “for example” instead of using abbreviations to words from a dead language?

  10. Hi Pat,

    It does not have to end the sentence, but it would be best to set it off by dashes at the beginning and end of the phrase.

  11. Does the i.e., phrase have to end the sentence? Or what punctuation may I use to continue….?

    “The planning documents; i.e., the FEIS, and earlier REAP’s – contain lists of prope…”

    forgot the example.

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