We see these abbreviations often in academic English texts, often in parentheses, and we can usually guess the context from the text before them, but what do these letters mean? The abbreviation “eg” stands for the Latin expression exempli gratia, which means “for example” or “for the purpose of example”. Already “ie” represents the Latin expression id est, which means “that is”, “that is” or “in other words”. When writing, we often use these terms to emphasize a point using examples (eg) or to put a concept differently without giving a long explanation (ie).
Some people confuse the two terms and use them incorrectly. Below you will find some useful tips and examples.
As stated above, eg is a short form of “for example”. The easiest way to remember this is that it starts with an “and” and so does “example”. Here are some phrases using this abbreviation:
There are many types of trees ( eg, spruce, oak, maple ) in the study area. [“There are many types of trees (e.g. spruce, oak, maple) in the study area.”]
“There were several breeds of horse ( eg, Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, Paints ) at the barn where we conducted our study on West Nile Virus.” [“There were several breeds of horse (e.g. Thoroughbred, Appaloosa, Paint) in the barn where we conducted our West Nile virus study.”]
Note that, giving a few names as examples, we suggest that there is much more to it than just these three tree species or these three horse breeds.
If these three tree species or horse breeds were the only ones existing in those locations, the sentences would instead be:
“There are many spruce, oak, and maple trees in the study area.” (“There are many spruces, oaks, and maples in the study area.”)
“There are Thoroughbreds, Appaloosas, and Paints at the barn where we conducted our study on West Nile Virus.” (“There are Thoroughbreds, Appaloosa, and Paint horses in the barn where we conducted our West Nile virus study.”)
Remembering the abbreviation “ie” is also easy, because it has the same initials as “isto é” in Portuguese (which derives directly from id est ). Here are some examples:
“After work, I'm going to try the new restaurant ( ie, All About Pasta ) to decide on a venue for the reception.” [“After work, I will try out the new restaurant (i.e. All About Pasta) to decide on a venue for the reception.”]
“To buy the car that I really want ( ie, a Tesla ), I will have to work a lot of overtime.” [“To buy the car I really want (i.e. a Tesla), I will have to work a lot of overtime.”]
It may also help you to remember the differences if you think of the two abbreviations this way: “eg” provides examples, so it tends to increase the number of choices, while “ie” gives clarification or precise information, so it tends to decrease the number of options.
score and style
Correct punctuation is also important in abbreviations. For these two abbreviations, the punctuation is fairly straightforward, although there are some exceptions (as noted below). Some of the punctuation rules for these two abbreviations are as follows:
Different disciplines use different style guides, which have their own punctuation rules for these and other abbreviations. In general, the above guidelines should be followed for academic writing in most cases. These abbreviations are fairly standard across disciplines; however, always be sure to check the author guidelines and style guides for the specific discipline and journal to see that there are no exceptions to these rules.
Have you ever faced any problems using “eg” or “ie”? What tips did you follow? Tell us in the comments section!