E.g. vs. I.e.–What’s the Difference?

I.e. and e.g. are both Latin abbreviations. E.g. stands for exempli gratia and means “for example.” I.e. is the abbreviation for id est and means “in other words.” Remember that E is for example (e.g.) and that I and E are the first letters of in essence, an alternative English translation of i.e.

But why bother with all this Latin? Don’t we have enough abbreviations in English?

Think about it. How would you feel if you got a text message that ended in SWAK? Many of the parents who took a quiz on texting acronyms weren’t sure what it meant. While some teenagers may laugh a little at the older generation’s inability to master texting lingo, the truth is that many of them would be hard-pressed to explain the difference between i.e. and e.g. Now you know the basics, but let’s get into the nitty-gritty of what everyone from student to professional writer needs to know about these meaningful letters.

E.g. vs . I.e. Difference

What Does E.g. Mean?

Once again, e.g. is short for exempli gratia, a Latin phrase that means “for the sake of example.” As you may guess, you use it to introduce one or more examples. Don’t worry about listing every possibility; e.g. is used to introduce a few examples, not a complete list.

And now for some examples of e.g.:

Should that happen to poor, as-yet unaffected places (e.g., most of South Asia and Africa) the suffering can be great. —“WHO rejects calls to move Olympics over Zika fears

There’s a common view that Malcolm Turnbull’s ‘30-minute city’ is yet another slight variation on the many terms we already have for a more sustainable urban form e.g. compact city, walkable city, smart growth, new urbanism, urban consolidation. —“Is Turnbull’s ’30-minute city’ a serious election issue?”

What Does I.e. Mean?

What about i.e.? A lot of people confuse this expression with e.g., but this one does not have to do with listing examples. I.e.’s Latin origin is the phrase id est, which translates to English as “that is to say” or “in other words.” Here’s a trick to remember this: associate the I of i.e. with the I of “in other words.” Alternately, imagine that the I and E stand for “in essence.”

And now, let’s take a look at i.e. in action:

[What privilege] would allow them to refuse to answer investigators’ questions? Only one: the Fifth Amendment privilege—i.e., the refusal to answer on the grounds that truthful responses might be incriminating. — “How to Read the IG Report

Besides math and crossword puzzles, I am passionate about self-supported bicycle touring, i.e., traveling hundreds and thousands of miles on a bike with all my camping gear and other supplies.The New York Times

How to Use E.g. and I.e. in Writing

E.g. and i.e. are both lowercase when they show up in the middle of a sentence (i.e., like this). Most American style guides recommend a period after both letters in both abbreviations.

In general, you add a comma after e.g. and between each subsequent example if there is more than one item in your list. If you want your examples or your narrowing-down set apart from the rest of the sentence, you can enclose e.g. and i.e., along with the examples associated with them, in parentheses.

Even though exempli gratia and id est are both Latin (and therefore italicized), no need to put e.g. or i.e. in italics when they’re in abbreviated form. Abbrevs are all about keeping things quick and easy, after all.

Let’s recap.

E.g. is used to give one or more possible examples. It’s a signal that you’re seeing one or a few of multiple possibilities.

I.e, on the other hand, clarifies; you are providing more precise information. Where e.g. opens up more options, i.e. narrows them down.

Compare these two examples:

After work, I’ll walk over to that new sports arena, i.e., Thunderdome.

After work, I’ll walk over to a sports arena, e.g., Thunderdome or Victory Court.

In the first example, you are clarifying that Thunderdome is the exact arena that you will visit. In the second example, you will visit Thunderdome, Victory Court, or any other sports arena.

Now you have a response if a teen teases you about your lack of texting expertise. You can ask her to tell you the words behind some abbreviations that you understand (e.g., id est). FYI (i.e., for your information), SWAK means “sealed with a kiss.”

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  • ronbannon

    Thank you. Q.E.D.

  • Francisco Vianna

    E.g and I.e, I guess, are Latin derived abbreviations used only in written texts, not in current speech. In the case I’m wrong, how should I pronounciate them? With a Latin pronounce or with an English one?

    • As far as I know you say i.e. when reading out loud. At least I do. As for e.g, that is actually changed to few things, but most of them have ‘example’ in the mix. Most common is ‘for example’.

      • Francisco Vianna

        Okay, but how should I pronounce them while speaking in loud voice I.e. (ee ah – in latin way or I.e (I e in saxonic pronounce) and the same for e.g?

        • Angelos TSIRIMOKOS

          Pronounce them the English way [ai i:] and [i: ʤi:]. They are thoroughly assimilated, and no one thinks of them as Latin.
          On the contrary, ‘viz.’, which is a near-synonym of ‘i. e.’, is normally pronounced ‘namely’ 🙂

          • Francisco Vianna

            Interesting and enlightening, From now on I’ll pronounce e.g. in the english way (ee, dzjee). Thanks,

        • i.e. in saxonic. 🙂 I agree with angelos with exchanging e.g. with namely. 🙂

  • The more important question here: who on earth uses SWAK? I’m a Millennial who is in contact with my Millennial friends pretty often and have never heard of that particular bit of ‘texting lingo’.

    • Update: Just took that quiz and while I could guess what most were, no one I’ve ever texted has ever actually used the saucier acronyms e.g. PAW, WUF, KPC, WYRN, PIR. Real “teen acronyms” aren’t that hard to guess when using context clues—we’re not that much more language-savvy than older generations. They’re not Latin-based like these abbreviations are, they’re simply shortened words typically created by removing vowels and/or nonessential consonants. For example, never mind becomes nvm (not ‘NM’, as the quiz says, because ‘v’ is an essential consonant for comprehensibility). The point of acronyms and other shortenings is to make communication more efficient; if it’s hard for people to guess, it’s not serving that purpose, and it’s not going to be used frequently. The real problem with modern text comprehensibility is that parents are too trusting and can’t take 3 seconds to look something up online. Any parent who believes their kid when they say ‘KPC’ means ‘Keep Praising Christianity’ in the context in which it would theoretically be used is a fool.

    • mauims

      Customarily put this on the flap of all envelopes, mailed between ages six and ten.

    • Lane

      It was written on the sealed envelope flap of a love letter letter. Young people don’t write and mail letters in envelopes today. They probably don’t use the USPO to mail letters. They don’t lick envelopes, they don’t lick stamps and they don’t dial phones.

  • Tanmay Pawar

    i just want a slice of pi

  • Cassidy Tucker

    What is SWAK? Does anybody else have this problem or am I in the dark?

    • Johnny Kgr

      Sealed With A Kiss

    • SWAK sounds like an violent action, like smack (hit).

    • Pat Murphy

      SWAK really is old school. – we used it when I was a teen and I’m now in my 70s.

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