Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Grammar-licious: Making Grammar Fun - April

As with any Grammar-licious blog post, you will find several examples included below, but what makes this article particularly fun is that it is all about examples, specifically the when, where, and how surrounding i.e. and e.g.

There is a difference between the two abbreviations. It’s the similarity that causes the confusion. Let’s get to it, shall we?

In everyday conversation, most of us will say “that is” or “for example.” Yet in writing, many of us prefer to use the abbreviations i.e. or e.g. The test is: which abbreviation matches which phrase?

We now need to break for some Latin language lessons. (I did that for the alliteration.)

i.e. comes from the Latin phrase id est, meaning “that is”. You use i.e. when restating or expanding upon the idea. i.e. is used to give a specific, clarifying example, or more than one, but they are specific.

e.g. comes from the Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning “for example”. e.g. is used when utilizing an open-ended list of examples.

Real world examples:
I love something sweet, i.e., ice cream, after dinner.
I love chocolate candies, e.g., Hershey kisses, Dove bars, and Ghirardelli squares.

My grandmother enjoys playing social card games, i.e., bridge and gin rummy.
My grandfather enjoys playing solo card games, e.g., solitaire.

Susan plays with her sister, i.e., Paula, every day after school.
Susan loves when her cousins, e.g., Robert, Sheila, and Mark, visit at Christmas.

If everything makes sense now, wonderful! If it’s not quick clicking, read on.

How about thinking of i.e. as “in effect” or “in essence”, or use the ‘i’ and go with “in other words”? And for e.g., think of “example given” or key off the ‘e’ and remember ‘example’, as in ‘for example’. Of course, if you remember the trick for one of the abbreviations, you will probably know when to use the other.

Bonus tip #1 - since e.g. represents a partial list, it is redundant to use etc. at the end of any list following the e.g.

Bonus tip #2 – always use periods after each letter in the abbreviation AND use a comma after the full abbreviation

The best rule to follow, if you want to avoid errors, is to not use either abbreviation in your writing. Simply use “for example” or “that is” and you’ll be fine.


This month’s recommended grammar book is: Essential English Grammar by Philip Gucker.


I like finding ways to remember the ‘rules’ and hope you can find something helpful. It’s my hope the monthly grammar techniques and usage examples will make grammar a lot less frightening and potentially enjoyable (can you imagine?) for you.

If you have grammar topics you’d like to see covered, please leave a comment or email me!

(originally published in The TWC Spotlight for March,2009)

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