Any time we directly import Latin words (such as et cetera, as we’ve already seen, and ipso facto, per se, or ergo) into our writing, we run the risk of embarrassing ourselves. Even though they’re just two letters each, i.e. and e.g. seem to cause a lot of confusion.
- My students need help with grammar; e.g., they forget grammar rules.
- The buffet included plenty of options (i.e., chicken, steak, and fish).
- The store is closed, e.g., shut down for good.
The Latin phrase id est, abbreviated i.e., means “that is.” The Latin phrase exempli gratia, abbreviated e.g., means “for example.” When using i.e. and e.g. in a sentence, use a comma or semicolon before and a comma after, as in “David loves to travel; i.e., he has an adventurous spirit.” Note that the last phrase is complete. You may also use parentheses: “Our neighborhood deer love to eat vegetation (e.g., grass, leaves, twigs).”
Your best bet in remembering the difference between these two is to think about i.e. as standing for “in essence,” and the e of e.g. as “example.”