Confused by e.g. and i.e.? So am I and probably a million others. Here are a few memory tricks to remember the difference between the two.

The term e.g. is the abbreviation of exempli gratia, which is Latin for by way of example. This term means “for example.”

Most style guides recommend that when we use e.g., we put a comma before it and after it because the term is considered an interrupter. For example:

North Park serves excellent soups using different noodles, e.g., wheat, flat rice, soy bean paste, hand-pulled noodles.

The term i.e. is the abbreviation of id est, which is Latin for that is to say. We use i.e. to “introduce something that explains a preceding statement more fully or exactly” or to “add explanatory information or to state something in different words.” In other words, i.e. means “in other words.” :)  The term i.e. gives us a clarification, explanation or a further definition. 

Most style guides recommend that when we use i.e., we put a comma before it and after it, thus:

I am allergic to shoes that are synthetic, i.e., not made of leather or suede.

If all that still confuses you, try this memory trick:

e.g. = for Example (let the e in e.g. mean Example)

i.e. = In other words (let the i in i.e. mean In other words)

I suggest that you use these terms only if you are certain that your reader or readers understand them. Otherwise, the usual phrases “for example” and “that is to say” are perfectly fine to use.

If you have the time, do check out the great discussion on these terms by Grammar Girl.

Sources: Chicago Manual of Style, The Oxford-American Dictionary, Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary meaning of e.g. and of of i.e.

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