Mar 21, 2011


Summary: Two Latin abbreviations (i.e. and e.g.) are the subject of today's word study post. Do you know the right time to use which one?

This morning, in a meeting with my wonderful assistant Kim Hall (who just happens to have her own online mall), she mentioned she recently learned the proper usage between the abbreviations i.e. and e.g. My first thought was, "You mean, there's a difference?" So much for the professional editor in me.

Well, at least I knew right where to turn: Grammar Girl. The first thing this online editing guru and fellow blogger shares in her post on the subject is the actual Latin terms these abbreviations stand for—and that's where I realized I'd gone wrong. Somewhere along the way, a well-meaning English teacher had taught me that i.e. stood for "in example." But that just isn't true. Here's what is true:

I.e. = id est, or that is (as in, "that is to say" or "what I mean to say is")
E.g. = exempli gratia, or "for example"

And all this time, I thought they were interchangeable!

Here are some examples of proper usage:

1. Our brains are hard-wired, i.e., connected by dendrites and synapses, to retain information in very specific ways.
2. Because of our individuality, however, certain brain challenges can change the way we learn and store info—e.g., attention deficit disorders, autism, dyslexia, and mood disorders.
3. As a Communications Coach, I teach my clients to identify the challenges they face (e.g., nervousness or anxiety, shyness or intimidation, even innate excitement) in thinking and speaking clearly.
4. Correcting these challenges is easy: We simply start by identifying what happens in the body—i.e., answering the question, "What does your body feel like when you have a shy moment?"—and then correlate that to emotions and thoughts.
5. Ultimately, changing the thoughts you have in those moments (i.e., turning negative, secret thoughts into intentional, positive ones) can help you short-circuit the vicious cycle your body and brain have experienced in the past; with practice, I can help you achieve what my other clients have achieved: peace of mind and body, and the ability to think and speak clearly.

One of Grammar Girl's many commenters to her post stated, "I have been able to remember i.e. and e.g. by: i.e. - in essence and e.g. - example given." This is a great trick! ... Maybe my English teacher actually shared these mock abbreviations, and my mind somehow melded the two?

P.S. - If you or someone you know would like to experience the Communication Coaching process first-hand, contact me directly for rates and other info at

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