Writing Style – Viz. versus i.e.

BizWritingTip reader: “I have recently seen what appears to be a different version of the i.e. guideline. The short form was viz. followed by a group of names or items. ‘There were three people elected to the 2010 board of directors, viz., Mr. Smith, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Kelly.’ I cannot think of any Latin term for this abbreviation.”

BizWritingTip response: The abbreviation “viz.” is from the Latin “videlicet.” It means “namely” or “precisely.” Therefore, the example you provided is correct, and I have seen the word often in academic writing.

However, my feeling is that viz. is a little like saying something is “whiter than white.” The abreviation extends the meaning of i.e. The abbreviation i.e. (from the Latin “id est”) means “that is.” It denotes everything that follows.

Example (correct)
There were three people elected to the 2010 board of directors, i.e., Mr. Smith, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Kelly.

Viz. means “precisely everything that follows.” It emphasizes your exactness.

Example (correct)
There were three people elected to the 2010 board of directors, viz., Mr. Smith, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Kelly.

You would never use viz. if you were referring to examples. It would be better to use e.g. (for example).

Example (correct)
Three people may be elected to the 2010 board of directors, e.g., Mr. Smith, Mr. Hall, and Mr. Kelly.

Although viz. is a stronger abbreviation than i.e., there are a number of readers who might not recognize it. My preference is to stick with i.e. But that’s me!

Note: There is always a period after the abbreviation. And if you were reading it aloud, it is an English language custom to verbally substitute the word “namely” instead of saying “viz.”

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