Worg Choice – i.e. versus e.g./ie versus eg

Pam’s question: “I am responsible for editing various financial documents. In the explanations provided, examples are often included. Can you please clarify the use of eg and ie and how to punctuate them?”

BizWritingTip response: The abbreviation i.e. stands for the Latin id est. Translated it means “that is.” Think of it as saying “in other words.”

Example
You will be tested on computer programs, i.e., Lotus Notes, Word and Excel. (You will be tested on all three programs.)

The abbreviation e.g. is from the Latin exempli gratia. It means for example.

Example
You will be tested on computer programs, e.g., Lotus Notes, Word and Excel. (You may be tested on some — if not all — of these programs and on others not listed.)

Note: Never use etc. after a list beginning with e.g. It would be redundant as e.g. indicates the list is not inclusive.

As for punctuation, the sources vary. The Oxford Canadian Dictionary, The Gregg Reference Manual, APA Publication Manual, and The Chicago Manual of Style all say to use periods with the abbreviation — e.g. or i.e.

However, the AMA Manual of Style recommends eg or ie — without the periods.

Regardless of whether you use periods or not, many sources recommend putting the phrase in parentheses when writing formally and adding a comma after the abbreviation.

Examples (correct for formal documents)
The researchers will include temporal characteristics (i.e., month and time of day) in their study.
The researchers will include temporal characteristics (ie, month and time of day) in their study.

When writing letters, emails and non-technical reports, omit the parentheses and place commas on both sides of the abbreviation.

Examples (correct for informal writing – letters, emails and non-technical reports)
My son claims some sports put him to sleep, e.g., curling.
She prefers a hot drink with breakfast, eg, coffee.
I can write effective business documents, i.e., letters, reports, emails and business cases.
I can write effective business documents, ie, letters, reports, emails and business cases.

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