the difference between e.g. and i.e. and when to use them

When writing, there are often times when the Latin abbreviations of “exempli gratia” or “id est” are needed – and goodness knows that it’s shorter than typing out “for example” or “in other words” – but when to use e.g. and when to use i.e. can be a bit confusing. Here’s my unsophisticated method for remembering when to use e.g. (for example) and when to use i.e. (in other words).

To use e.g., you must need to convey examples of that which has been referenced in the statement needing clarification.
“I need certain gadgets in my life (e.g., cameras, iPods, and coffee makers).”

To remember e.g., I say in my head egg-samples. Examples = eggsamples = EG. An egg-sample list of what I need to clarify. It’s not very scholarly, but it works for me.

To use i.e., you must need to further explain the initial statement through a bit of rewording.
“I need certain gadgets in my life (i.e., I would surely die without the little mechanical things that make my life easier).”

My trick to remembering when to use i.e. is less creative than the egg-thing above; I simply remember the ‘i’ in i.e. as IN. IN other words.

Egg and IN. Not particularly fancy, but they work for me.
Here’s an additional tip: you should also be able to seamlessly replace the Latin abbreviations with the words “For example” or “In other words”. If you can’t, then re-examine what you are trying to clarify.

Technorati Tags: , , ,

6 thoughts on “the difference between e.g. and i.e. and when to use them”

  1. Sage advice and wise words.

    I always get irked by people who say “pacific” when they mean “specific”. Contrary to popularly held beliefs, the best and simplest way to deal with these cretins is to resort to violence. I like to point out their mistake to them by using a megaphone next to their ear, before beating them over the head with a copy of The Consice Oxfud Diktionary.

  2. Thank you very much, Maximus Woppitus!

    The e.g. vs i.e. thing used to trip me up, so I thought it might be a useful post for others. 🙂

    The ‘pacific’ thing bugs me too… same goes for folks who can’t pronounce ‘nuclear’ ‚ÄIT IS NOT NOO-CUE-LER!
    Violence inducing, indeedy.

  3. Eggcellent post!

    And there are no words to describe how I feel about the use of noo-cue-ler! Well, maybe one word–EXPLOSIVE!

  4. @Ginny – yeah, and people (that would be Bush I’m referring to in this instance) who can’t say nuclear, shouldn’t be able to play with nuclear weapons.

    @Drew – and another comment salvaged from Akismet. Dude, you need to stop trying to sell me pills in all your other comments! lol

    @gia – ‘great minds’ as they say. 😉

Comments are closed.