Teaching a writing class leads to some awesome questions from my students. As a result of an interesting discussion, today I’ll show you how to use ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ in formal academic papers. They are both Latin abbreviations, but their meanings are different.
e.g. is Latin for “exempli gratia.” In English, we say “for example.” I like many things about Vancouver, e.g. the weather, the people, and the restaurants. (Some people remember this one as “examples given.” Not technically a good translation, but it works.)
i.e. is Latin for “id est.” In English, this means “that is to say.” We use this to introduce more specific detail about a topic. “We weren’t ready for this project, i.e. we needed to do more preparation before we started.”
There are two more expressions from Latin that we see in writing: et cetera and et al.
et cetera is Latin for “and more of the same.” People often use this at the end of a list to show that there are more possible things. The store sells everything for your body, including makeup, soap, shampoo, et cetera. If you use it as an abbreviation, write “etc.” This is not as commonly used as it once was, because it gives an impression of the author being too lazy to finish the list.
et al. is Latin for “of other things/places/people.” This is most often used as an abbreviation in a bibliography, to show that many authors wrote a paper. If John Smith, Joan Doe, Jane Brown and Joe Robinson wrote a paper together, a common citation in the text is Smith et al. “According to Smith et al., the main problem is…” Notice that there is a period after al, because it is an abbreviation.