What is the difference between e.g. and i.e.?

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What is the difference between e.g. and i.e.?
You’ve probably come across e.g. and i.e. in other peoples’ writing and you might even use them yourself. But do you know what those acronyms stand for and, most importantly, when to use them?

Contrary to what a lot of people believe, they are not synonyms. There is a correct time to use each of them.

What does e.g. mean?

E.g., or exempli gratia, is Latin for “for the sake of example.” Writers use it to include examples. For example:

  • Birth injuries can come in many forms, e.g., cerebral palsy, caput succedaneum, brachial palsy, fractures.
  • You may be eligible to recover compensation for your economic damages, e.g., medical bills, lost wages, cost of home renovations, etc.

What does i.e. mean?

I.e., or id est, is Latin for, “that is.” Writers use it to explain more complicated terms or concepts. For example:

  • Caput succedaneum, i.e., swelling of a newborn scalp, may occur after the head sustains continued pressure during delivery.
  • To have an eligible claim, you must prove your case by a “preponderance of the evidence, i.e., more than 50 percent of your evidence must prove your case.

How to Remember When to Use E.g. and I.e.

Remembering the difference between these two acronyms can be difficult, but I’ll share my secret with you.

To remember i.e., I always replace “id est” with “I explain.” This way, you can always associate it with explaining.

But, e.g. has an e too? That’s easy enough, too. Grammar Girl, Grammarly, Grammarist, and myself all just replace the e with example.

If you’re still worried that you’ll mix them up, I always remember that g is one letter away from f (for example).

Check out last week’s post on avoiding adverbs and come back next week for a discussion of burying the lede.

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