There are a few Latin terms that are still commonly used in English scholarly writing, including the abbreviations ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’ Sometimes writers use these abbreviations interchangeably, but these terms mean different things, and it is important to use the correct abbreviation to ensure that the meaning of a sentence is retained. Both of these abbreviations are commonly used at the beginning of nonrestrictive elements that are enclosed in either commas or parentheses. Most style guides suggest the use of a comma after both e.g. and i.e.
e.g. (exempli gratia)
e.g. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning “for example.” This abbreviation is typically used to introduce one or more examples of something mentioned previously in the sentence and can be used interchangeably with “for example” or “such as.” The use of e.g. implies that there are other examples not mentioned in the list. Here are some examples:
- “The Summer Olympics is composed of a variety of sports (e.g., gymnastics, swimming, and tennis).”
- “Many genes are involved in neural tube development, e.g., Sonic Hedgehog, BMPs, and the Hox genes.”
- Note: because e.g. implies that other examples are being omitted, do not use etc. in the same list.
i.e. (id est)
i.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin phrase id est, meaning “that is.” This abbreviation is used when you want to specify something mentioned previously; it can be used interchangeably with “specifically” or “namely.” Here are some examples:
- “Only one city, i.e., London, has hosted the Summer Olympics three times.”
- “Every genetics student learns the two basic methodologies in the field, i.e., forward genetics and reverse genetics.”
We hope that this clears up some confusion about these terms. Please email us with any questions. Best of luck with your writing!