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Even though e.g. and i.e. are some of the most commonly used Latin abbreviations in the English language, they are often misused or used interchangeably.

However, they mean different things, so it’s important to use them correctly to avoid confusion and unnecessary problems for readers.

After all, they are intended to clarify your writing, but you’ll only achieve that if you know what they stand for. This will help you use them correctly and make your content easy to read, ensuring your reader doesn’t miss the point.

So, let’s explain what they mean and see some examples in action.

What Does “E.g.” Mean?

“E.g.” stands for the Latin term “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example.” Instead of explaining to the reader that you’ll give them one or more examples of something that you’ve already discussed, writing “e.g.” will tell them that what follows after it is one or more examples supporting the sentence before it.

Here are a few examples of how to use “e.g.” properly:

There are different types of human body systems (e.g., the muscular, skeletal, lymphatic, and nervous system).
If this happens to underdeveloped countries (e.g., Niger, Burundi, and Chad), the effects will be devastating.

How to Use “E.g.”

Use this abbreviation in the same way you use “for example” right before you give your examples. You can place it in parentheses or brackets, as we did in the examples above. “E.g.” almost always precedes a comma in formal writing, but it usually comes after it in less formal writing.

Don’t forget to put a period after both “e” and “g,” especially if you prefer the American English writing style. When it comes to capitalization, this abbreviation is lowercase when you use it in the middle of the sentence. But, if you use it to start a sentence, you should capitalize the first letter “e.”

Last but not least, there’s no need to italicize it as that will make you slower, which is the opposite of what abbreviations are used for.

What Does “I.e.” Mean?

“I.e.” stands for another Latin term known as “id est, and it means “in other words,” “in essence,” or “that is.” Instead of explaining to the reader that the following words or phrases will clarify the sentence or phrase that’s already stated, you can simply write “i.e.,” and they will know it.

Here are a few examples of how to use “i.e.” properly:

Only one country, i.e., Oman, starts with the letter O.
Every ESL learner should know the three basic verb tenses in English, i.e., present, past, and future.

How to Use “I.e.”

Use this abbreviation the same way you use “in other words,” just before explaining a concept or term you have already mentioned. You should write it before a comma or dash and in brackets or parentheses if you like.

Both letters in this abbreviation, “i” and “e,” should be followed by a period. You shouldn’t capitalize any letter if you use it in the middle of the sentence. However, if you use it at the beginning of the sentence, you should capitalize “i.”

Just like “e.g.,” “i.e.” doesn’t have to be italicized despite being a Latin abbreviation, so you can write faster.

I.e. vs. E.g.—How to use the Right Term

If you’re not sure whether you should use “i.e.” or “e.g.” in your writing, try substituting them with “in other words” or “for example.” This way, you can see which term makes your sentence more logical and precise. The easiest way to use the right abbreviation is to remember that:

The first letters of “in essence” make the abbreviation “i.e.,” and the first letter of “e.g.” stands for “example” as in “for example.”