I.e. and e.g. are two different abbreviations that many writers get confused, but, once you understand what each abbreviation means, they aren’t difficult to manage at all.
In this post, we will go through the differences between the two, mention a few ways to keep track of their meanings, and discuss the proper ways to punctuate them in sentences.
After reading this article, you won’t ever mix up i.e. vs. e.g. again.
I.e. Meaning, E.g. Meaning
To start off, what does i.e. mean and what does e.g. mean?
They are both abbreviations for Latin terms, i.e. meaning id est and e.g. meaning exempli gratia. The English translations are “that is” and “for example.”
There are a few good ways to keep their meanings separate from one another. One is to remember that, since i.e. begins with an “I,” it means “In Essence” or “In other words.” These two aren’t exact translations, but they can communicate the meaning to you so you don’t mix up the abbreviations in your writing.
Remembering e.g. can be done by thinking of it as meaning “Example Given” or by remembering that it means “Example,” which also starts with an “E.”
How to Use I.e. and E.g. in a Sentence
Now that we know the differences in meaning between these two abbreviations, how exactly do we use them in a sentence?
Remember that i.e. means “that is” or “in essence” or “in other words,” so, when we use it, we are going further in depth on something that was previously mentioned. We are elaborating on a topic. For example,
- This coat is made up of synthetic materials (i.e., not leather or suede).
In this sentence, I am elaborating and bringing more clarification to the materials from which my coat is made.
E.g. means “for example,” so, when we use this, we are introducing specific examples to our sentence. For instance,
- I like citrus fruits (e.g., oranges, lemons, grapefruits).
- Vegetables (e.g., broccoli, carrots, radishes) are good for you.
In these two examples, I am providing specific examples of the fruits I like and the vegetables that are good for you.
Putting These into Sentences
When you’re using either i.e. or e.g. in your sentences, there are a few stylistic items to keep in mind.
First, always include a period after each letter. I.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations, so they need to have periods after each letter to signify this fact.
Second, most style guides advise placing a comma after the abbreviation. Some disagree, but AP Style requires it, as does Chicago Style. Very few, if any, actually warn against using it, so it is best to include it in your sentences.
Third, there is no need to italicize the abbreviations in your sentences. Despite the fact that they are Latin, they have become so ingrained into modern-day English that they are widely accepted without being italicized.
Fourth (and last), keep your audience in mind when you decide how to write them in your sentence. For instance, the Chicago Style Manual suggests for all formal writing to insert i.e. and e.g. into your sentences using parenthesis. For example,
- I also enjoy citrus soda (e.g., Mountain Dew, Mello Yellow).
Notice that this is how I structured all of my above examples. Outside of formal writing, it would also be acceptable to write the above sentence as follows,
- I also enjoy citrus soda, e.g., Mountain Dew, Mello Yellow.
- I also enjoy citrus soda—e.g., Mountain Dew, Mello Yellow.
Should I use e.g. or i.e.? Well, that depends on the context of your sentence of course.
We covered a lot of material in this post, but I think we can sum up pretty quickly. Here’s all you need to remember on e.g. vs. i.e.
- I.e. means “that is.”
- A good way to remember this is by remembering i.e. as “In Essence” or “In other words.”
- E.g. means “for example.”
- A good way to remember e.g. is to think of it as meaning “Example Given” or by simply remembering that it means “Example,” which also starts with an “E.”
- Put periods after each letter to indicate that they are abbreviations.
- Place a comma after the abbreviation.
- Do not italicize the abbreviations.
- Keep your formatting in mind for your audience.