CS Sealey

New Zealand-based sub-editor, writer and author

The difference between e.g. and i.e.

These two Latin expressions don’t come up often in narrative prose, I find, but knowing their differences is a valuable tool to have under your belt, just in case.

e.g. (abbreviation)—from the Latin exempli gratia ‘for the sake of example’; for example, eg

The local supermarket stocks many different types of potatoes; e.g. brushed, sweet and desiree.

Some of the new teachers (e.g. Mr Brown, Ms Harrison and Mrs Lambert) found it hard to handle their Year 8 classes.

i.e. (abbreviation)—from the Latin id est ‘that is’; that is to say, ie

Somebody had to go downstairs and see what all the fuss was about, i.e. me.

‘Today, we’ll be painting apples, so get the right colours out of the cupboard, i.e. red, green and yellow,’ the art teacher said.

Note that, in my definitions, I have included eg and ie without punctuation marks. This is quickly becoming accepted as an alternate way of expressing e.g. and i.e. and one I am fairly happy with and already adopt. Good prose is already peppered with articles of punctuation without having to go overboard and give a piece of writing measles!

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