In the past few days I have seen "i.e." and "e.g." used incorrectly; or, rather, I've seen "i.e." used when the writer obviously meant to use "e.g." So I thought I'd write a bit of a refresher here.
First of all, what does each abbreviation mean?
"i.e." stands for id est, which is Latin for "that is" or "that is to say".
"e.g." is the abbreviation for exempli gratia, which is Latin and is literally translated "for the sake of example", and which we shorten to "for example".
So how should we use them correctly?
i.e. is used to clarify something. I would use it if I were going to say, "I went shopping with my two eldest sisters, i.e. Dennice and Maxine." I have five sisters, so this clarifies which two are going shopping with me.
e.g.is used to introduce an example or a list of examples. I might say, "I always have fun when I go shopping with a couple of my sisters, e.g. Dennice and Maxine." Since I have five sisters, I chose two of them to use as examples of being fun to have along while shopping.
Another set of examples might be these:
"I enjoy an eclectic mix of music genres, e.g. bluegrass and alternative rock." I listed only two examples of the many genres of music that I like. "There is one type of music that I do not like at all; i.e. gangster rap!" In the second sentence I clarified which type of music I do not like at all.
I have taught my kids a couple of memory tricks to use if they find themselves getting confused about which abbreviation to use. The simplest way to remember is that "i.e.", starting with "i", means "in other words", which also starts with "i". And remember that "e.g.", starting with "e", means "for example", also with an "e".
One big peeve I have is when a writer over-uses i.e. or e.g. It really is okay to just say "for example", or "that is". And please don't put a space between the letters, capitalize them, or italicize them when you do use them in a sentence. They should be in lower case with no space between the periods and letters.