This Writing Wednesday is short and sweet. Mainly because the topic itself is such, but also because my brain is pretty much checked out.
It’s been an exhausting few days.
BUT, let’s talk abbreviations! More specifically – i.e. and e.g.
Contrary to popular belief, the two are not interchangeable. One is used when you exhaust the list of possible examples, the other is reserved for a sampling of what could be mentioned.
Start with i.e. It comes from the Latin “id est” meaning “that is”.
You use i.e. when all listed examples are the only examples.
It was interesting to see who felt compelled to comment on certain events from the weekend (i.e., the Women’s March on Washington).
Because I used i.e., you know that’s really *the only event people were commenting on.
On the other hand, you have e.g. It comes from the Latin “exempli gratia” which is literally “for example”.
e.g. comes into play when you’re just throwing out a quick sample.
This week’s updates from the White House are truly beyond words (e.g., censorship, voter fraud, alternative facts).
It’s easy enough to remember e.g. is “for example”, but i.e. is technically used for examples, too. What to do!?
Think of i.e. as “in other words” – whatever follows the abbreviation is the only other way to say what preceded.
Beyond those differences, there’s only one rule to remember: Always put a comma before your list.
None of this should surprise anyone when you consider the red flags waved over the course of 2016 (e.g., racism, bigotry, sexism, dishonesty).
Like I said, short and sweet! Just take a closer look at what you’re listing and the right choice should be a no-brainer.
Now go be kind to others.
Title Credit: Frank Sinatra
*I specifically said “from the weekend” – the days since have been a whole different ball game.