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"i.e." and "e.g."

Based on the number of times the question comes up in discussion groups and the number of times I've corrected errors in their use in materials I am editing, there is considerable confusion out there about the meaning and usage of those pesky little Latin critters, "i.e." and "e.g." 

What does that tell us? It tells us that even if we, as writers, use them correctly, there are a lot of readers who aren't sure what we've just told them. So the simplest rule of all is don't use them. You won't miss them and neither will your readers.

Didn't think it would be that easy, did you? The exception to the rule is if you're writing a scholarly work for academia or some such, where the readership can be assumed to be comfortable with them and they might even notice if you don't use them (maybe).

Okay, if you insist, "i.e." is an abbreviation for the Latin id est and means "that is"; "e.g." is an abbreviation for the Latin exempli gratia and means "for example" or "for instance." Which means you now know what to use instead of them.

"Etc." is apparently well-understood by both writers and readers, but no one has ever complained about someone using "and so forth" or "and so on," either.

 

 

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