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Write the Right Word: e.g. and i.e.

Abbreviations and acronyms are commonplace in text messages, and they’re becoming more common in other writing as well.

Two of those abbreviations are e.g. and i.e.

E.g. means “for example.” I.e. is the abbreviation for the Latin term id est, or “that is to say.” The best way to remember that e.g. relates to “example” is that both start with an “e.”

Note that e.g. and i.e. require periods after each letter. They also must be followed by a comma in a sentence. “The producer raised several crops; e.g., corn, wheat, barley, canola, oats and dry edible beans.”

But I’d recommend you not use either of these abbreviations. Not everyone knows what they mean, and many people think they can be used interchangeably. Spell out “for example” instead: “The producer raised several crops; for example, corn, wheat, barley, canola, oats and dry edible beans.” Better yet, drop the “for example” and just use a colon (:) after crops.

You also don’t need to use “that is to say.” If you have to explain what you just said in another way, you shouldn’t be saying it the original way.

I.e. often is used in parenthesis: “Apply XYZ pesticides on a calm day (i.e., winds blowing less than 5 mph).” But you don’t need the i.e. because the phrase in parentheses is clear without it.

, Information Specialist, 701-231-5391

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