Using i.e. and e.g.: Ditch the Latin book and follow these tips

One means ‘in other words,’ and the other ‘for example’—but which is which?

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Misusing the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. is one of the top five mistakes I used to see when editing technical documents. There’s so much confusion that in some of the drafts I got back from clients they had actually crossed out the right abbreviation and replaced it with the wrong one. I just had to laugh.

I.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms. I.e. stands for id est and means roughly “that is.” E.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.” “Great. Latin,” you’re probably thinking. “How am I supposed to remember that?”

I’m not going to ask you to remember Latin. I’m going to give you a memory trick! Here’s how I remember the difference: Forget about i.e. standing for “that is” or whatever it really means in Latin. From now on, i.e., which starts with i, means “in other words,” and e.g., which starts with e, means “for example.” I = in other words. E= example.

Some of my listeners have said they remember the difference between i.e. and e.g. by imagining that i.e. means “in essence,” and e.g. sounds like “egg sample,” and those are good memory tricks, too.

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