How to Use i.e. and e.g. Correctly
One of the most comment questions we get from clients is:
Are 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 an example 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 an example 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.
About the author
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.