Jackie Mattila of Wells Fargo asks about i.e. and e.g.
What Do They Mean?
The abbreviations i.e. and e.g. represent the Latin words, id est (“that is”) and exempli gratia (“for example”).
Some writers use i.e. (“that is”) when they want to repeat what they’re writing more precisely: “Your hearing, i.e., your preliminary hearing, is next Monday.”
Wait a minute. Wouldn’t it be easier—and more concise—to write, “Your preliminary hearing is next Monday”? Nine words down to six.
Some writers use e.g. (“for example”) when they want to list the parts of a whole: “The doctor has the laboratory equipment that he needs, e.g., the lightning rod, the neck bolts, and the table with the straps.”
Wouldn’t it be easier—and more concise—to write, “The doctor has the equipment he needs: the lightning rod, the neck bolts, and the table with the straps”? You replace e.g. with a colon.
When Should We Use Them?
We suggest you don’t use them.
The problem is two-fold:
1. Your reader has to recognize and understand the Latin abbreviation. “Oh. That means exempli gratia.” (Absolutely. That’s gonna happen.)
2. Your reader has to translate the Latin into English. “Oh. That means, “for example.”
Don’t put your reader through the hassle.
If you have questions, let us know. We love this stuff.
Next week: We’ll pursue a bunch of short questions: “Waiting in the line? Waiting on the line?” “One space or two after a period?” “Somebody or someone?”