“i before e” and “e before g”

Posted on Feb 14, 2012 | 0 comments

These handy Latin abbreviations—i.e. and e.g.—are frequently misused. Either the wrong one is chosen, or the right one is used but is not formatted correctly. These guidelines will help you abbreviate with confidence.

  • i.e. is the abbreviation for “id est” or “that is.”
  • e.g. is the abbreviation for “exempli gratia” or “for example.”

Use i.e. when you want to define a word or phrase; think of it as a substitute for “in other words.” Use e.g. to give one or more examples of a word or phrase.

  • He went to the store for provisions, i.e., supplies.
  • He went to the store for provisions, e.g., food, water and M&Ms.

Remember three things when you use these abbreviations:

  1. They are indeed abbreviations. Put a period after each letter.
  2. They are not proper nouns or titles. Use lower case.
  3. Place commas (or em dashes or parentheses, if appropriate) before and after the phrase that contains the abbreviation.

And, as they said in Rome, id est id.*

*That made a nice ending until I checked Google translate. Apparently the correct phrase is quod est quod. Darned dead languages.