Thursday, November 10, 2011

What's the difference between i.e. and e.g.?

Why am I talking about i.e. and e.g.?

I was at a networking event this past Monday—for women only, go women!—and was presented with a handout. The editor in me can never be shut down, so I made corrections as I read through it—the most obvious one being to change "i.e." to "e.g."

Someone sitting next to me noticed the change and commented that she had no idea they were used differently. At this point, the whole table was in on the conversation and I learned that none of them knew the difference! So, to explain.

There is a difference between i.e. and e.g.!

Abbreviation for
id est
exempli gratia
that is
for example

Things to keep in mind when using i.e. and e.g.

  • These are considered integrated into English enough that they do not need to be italicized.
    • I like to eat everything—i.e., everything except frog legs.
    • He will eat anything—e.g., he's eaten cow intestines, chicken feet, and frog legs!
  • They always take a comma following; if grammar rules dictate a comma before, they take a comme before as well.
    • He likes her a lot, i.e., he says he likes her a lot.
    • That company has done a lot of good; e.g., they've raised money for parks and have started a food shelter in at least three different cities.

How to remember the difference between i.e. and e.g.

Here's how I remember the difference; perhaps it'll work for you too!
  • The phrase "that is"—i.e.—contains "is," which starts with "i," just like i.e. does.
  • The phrase "for example"—e.g.—contains the sound "eg" (at the beginning of example), which is what e.g. would sound like if you sounded it out.
They may be stretches, but they work for me! Of course, I am a little odd.... :)

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