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06/18/01: The Latin Abbreviations i.e. and e.g.

Which of the following sentences correctly use the Latin abbreviations i.e. and e.g.?

1. The evaluation noted that the employee had frequently exhibited irresponsible behavior (i.e., coming to work late, failing to complete projects).

2. Writing instructors focus on a number of complex skills that require extensive practice (e.g., organization, clear expression, logical thinking, etc.)

3. The general rule is that if a number can be expressed in three words or fewer, it should be written out (e.g., two hundred seventy).

4. Use a comma to enclose (i.e., both before and after) the year in a month-day-year sequence.

Only sentences three and four are correct.

The Latin abbreviation i.e., which stands for id est, means that is, that is to say, or in other words. The letters e.g. stand for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, which means for example.

Sentence 1, then, should have used e.g. rather than i.e. because the parenthetical expression provides examples of irresponsible behavior.

Sentence 2 correctly uses e.g. but makes the mistake of adding etc. at the end of the list. When we use e.g., we tell the reader that we are providing a few examples. The e.g. itself says that our list will not be exhaustive. Thus, to avoid being redundant, we should not add etc. at the end of a list introduced by e.g.

Here are a few additional points to remember about these Latin abbreviations:

*The letters within them are followed by periods and have no space between them.

* Both expressions are followed by a comma when they are being used in their functionary role (i.e., not when they are being used as nouns, as phrases being spoken about, as in many places throughout this exercise).

*In professional writing contexts, they should be used only in footnotes or parenthetically within the running text of a sentence (i.e., inside parentheses).

*A few style manuals (e.g., the Texas Law Review Manual on Usage and Style) say that these abbreviations should be italicized, but most style manuals advocate setting them in roman type.

TEST YOURSELF Check the usage of i.e. and e.g. in the following sentences. (The answers are below.)

1. Phone calls made to major cities within our three-state area (e.g., Raleigh, Atlanta, Greenville, etc.) are billed at the local rate.

2. The summary of the auditor's report must specify which of the four types of findings was issued on the financial statements of the auditee (i.e., unqualified opinion, qualified opinion, adverse opinion, or disclaimer of opinion).

3. Personal electronic devices (i.e., cell phones, laptop computers) may not be used during the flight.

4. The president of the company is allowed certain privileges, including the use of the corporate jet and mountain retreat center, even when she is not engaged in company business (e.g., she may use them for vacations and other personal travel).


1. correct use of e.g., but etc. should be omitted
2. correct (The word four tells us that this particular list is exhaustive rather than being an enumeration of examples.)
3. e.g.
4. i.e.

Copyright 2001 Get It Write

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