When writing different types of texts, providing examples and further explanations can serve as powerful devices to illustrate, emphasize or clarify statements. However, introducing these types of exemplification is not as straightforward as you might think. Do you know what the abbreviations “e.g.” and “i.e.” actually stand for?
Message + e.g. + one or more instances
Message + i.e. + further elaboration
The use of the two alternatives is quite distinct: While “e.g.” introduces one or more examples, you should use “i.e.” to further elaborate your statement.
We read a number of the books by Dan Brown (e.g., “Angels & Dragons”, “The Da Vinci Code”, “Inferno”).
She went on a pilgrimage on the Way of St. James (i.e., a famous and frequently used trail in Northern Spain, near to the city of Santiago).
The Origins of “e.g.” and “i.e.”
It’s interesting to know that “e.g.” doesn’t stand for example given (this is only a popular mnemonic strategy), but is short for exempli gratia. The literal meaning of this Latin expression is for the sake of the example or thanks to the example of.
The abbreviation “i.e.” doesn’t originate from the English language, either. “Id est” is Latin and translates to that is. Again, in essence is not the literal long form of the expression, but rather another mnemonic technique. An alternative without a proper abbreviation would be namely.
Many people have been honored with the Academy Award, e.g., Leonardo DiCaprio, Christoph Waltz, or Meryl Streep. But only one actress has won the prize four times, i.e., Katharina Hepburn.
What is the Actual Difference between “e.g.” and “i.e.”?
Sometimes it can be difficult to differentiate between further explanation and examples of a given statement. Both sentences above appear to list further examples. The difference, however, is quite meaningful: The first sentence lists a number of persons for whom the statement is true. The second statement on the other hand, names the only known example, is therefore further defining the statement.
Do it right
1. Use commas or parentheses to separate
2. Commas after the abbreviations are mandatory
3. Avoid mentioning “etc.” at the very end
4. Use them only in writing; stick to for example and that is in your speech
If you are unsure of the correct punctuation conventions when you want to mention examples or further definitions, LanguageTool will help you. It will remind you, for instance, to include a comma after each “e.g.” and “i.e.” in your text.
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