The abbreviations “i.e.” and “e.g.” are commonly misused. Many people do not know what they stand for. This article will improve your understanding of these abbreviations and their proper use.
/Distinguishing Between i.e. and e.g./
1.Understand what the abbreviations stand for. “i.e.” is an abbreviation of the Latin words id est, which means “that is”. “e.g.” is an abbreviation for the Latin wordsexempli gratia, which means “for the sake of example”.
2.Associate each abbreviation with more easily remembered phrases. It may be difficult to memorize Latin words, so pretending that “i.e.” stands for “in essence” or “in other words”, and “e.g.” stands for “example given” can help.
3.Use creative mnemonic devices. Sometimes, not even associating the abbreviation with another phrase helps. If you’re still having trouble, try using more creative mnemonic solutions, such as associating i.e. with “I explain” or e.g. with “egg sample” (which sounds like “example”).
- You could also try memorizing a bizarre example sentence using the correct abbreviation, such as “The best way to drive unicorns out of your neighborhood is to play them loud Baroque classical music (i.e., complicated classical music composed between 1600-1750).”
/Knowing When to Use i.e. and e.g./
1. Use “i.e.” to paraphrase. Make a statement, then add “i.e.” to explain, specify, or describe what you just said in another way:The elephant is a pachyderm, i.e., a large animal with thick skin and nails on feet resembling hooves. I went to my least favorite place (i.e., the dentist). Note that what follows “i.e.” is often a further explanation. This can also be ametaphor. If you substitute “i.e.” with “in other words” the sentences still make sense. If you plug in “for example” they do not.
2.Use “e.g.” before giving one or more examples. Think of what precedes “e.g.” as a category, and what follows it as something (or a few things) that would fall into that category (but not everything in that category):
- Buy some vegetables, e.g., carrots.
- I like power metal (e.g., Firewind, Iced Earth, Sonata Arctica).
- Observe how using “i.e.” wouldn’t make sense in these examples. “Carrots” is not another way to describe vegetables in general, it is just one of the many foods that are considered to be vegetables. If you wanted to use “i.e.” you would write “Buy some vegetables, i.e., the edible part of any plant.” Likewise, the bands given are examples of power metal, but not a description. If you were using “i.e.” you would write something like “I like power metal, i.e., fast metal with symphonic elements and epic themes.”
3.Use e.g. and i.e. in short comments. It’s common to use the abbreviations e.g. and i.e. when adding a parenthetical statement, such as a clarification or explanation. However, if the clarification or explanation is part of the main sentence, spell out the phrase that is appropriate to your meaning instead.
- For example, if you’re writing a paper and want to provide some examples of sources that argue a particular point, use e.g.: “Some studies (e.g., Smith, 2015; Yao, 1999) support this assertion, while others — for example, Abdullah’s (2013) research on pizza and topping choice — disagree.”
- Use i.e. to provide short clarifications and a phrase to provide longer or more detailed clarifications: “In our research we altered the order of image display (i.e., first, second, or third) as well as their color scheme, that is, whether we had applied a blue or green filter.”
4.Consider your audience. Substantial confusion exists surrounding i.e. and e.g., even amongst highly educated readers. If you think that your readers may not understand what the abbreviation is used to signal, skip it and use a clarifying phrase instead.
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Note: This article has been adapted from the following source.