A client in a business writing course asked if the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. were interchangeable. They are not. Each has a specific meaning and use.
There are standard abbreviations to use when writing a business document (e.g., an email, memo, or text message) and you need to add clarifying information (i.e., grammar rules and tips):
- i.e. is the customary abbreviation for "that is." It is derived from the Latin term "id est."
- e.g. is the customary abbreviation for "for example." It is derived from the Latin phrase "exempli gratia."
- (So I don't have to worry about remembering the Latin derivations, I simply remember that example and e.g. both start with the letter e. E=example=e.g. Therefore, examples use e.g. while clarifications use i.e.)
e.g. in a sentence:
The marketing team will require only the basic presentation materials for the Atlanta trip (e.g., Product Benefits PowerPoint, Competitor Comparison Checklist). Be sure everyone receives full travel itineraries by tomorrow.
i.e. in a sentence:
We eliminated the Alexa shoe from our upcoming catalog after customer complaints alerted us of quality issues (i.e., the red ink was not colorfast). When you meet with department store managers, I recommend substituting the similar Daniella shoe.
- Only use these abbreviated forms e.g. and i.e. in more informal or expedient documents. It is always correct to simply write out, "for example," or "that is."
- Since these are abbreviations, they do require a period after each letter.
- All but one main style guide recommends a comma after use: i.e., and e.g.,
If you are looking for more tips and tricks check out our full list of business writing tips.
You need to understand the difference between e.g. or i.e. before you begin writing research papers and other pieces of written work. Writers will often use e.g. or i.e. as if they are interchangeable, but there are several differences between the two. Here we discuss the difference between the two abbreviations, including: their Latin and English translations, examples of appropriate uses, and how to present these in terms of parentheses and punctuation.
This is the Latin abbreviation for “exempli gratia,” meaning “for example.” Use e.g. when you want to give several examples relating to a previous statement: “I like many TV shows (e.g., The Office, Survivor, Dallas).”
This is the Latin abbreviation for “id est,” meaning “that is.” Use i.e. when you want to further explain or rephrase a previous statement: “I like many TV shows (i.e., I’ll watch pretty much anything).”
These abbreviations definitely do not mean the same thing, so be careful when you are selecting e.g. or i.e. in your writing. However, there are some similarities when it comes to the punctuation and presentation of both abbreviations. Both abbreviations can be used inside or outside parentheses, but it is strongly encouraged that you use e.g. or i.e. in parentheses for professional and technical writing (e.g., your thesis or dissertation, future journal articles, etc.). Always use lowercase letters for these abbreviations even if the abbreviations begin a sentence, and always punctuate abbreviations with appropriately placed periods without spaces and with commas after the second periods (i.e., see the previous examples).