by Breanne MacDonald
As a technical editor at ASCENT, I often come across two abbreviations that are frequently misused. When should you use i.e. and when is e.g. more appropriate?
This stands for exempli gratia in Latin and means “for example”. It should be followed by a comma and is used when providing a list of examples – just as you would use “for example” in a sentence.
This stands for id est, which translates to “that is.” It is used when providing an alternate wording or clarification in a sentence. You can use it the same way you would use “that is” or “in other words” and, like e.g., it should be followed by a comma.
Below are some example sentences showing correct and incorrect uses of e.g. and i.e.:
Use the sketch tools (e.g., line, 3-point arc, fillets, etc.) to create the sketch.
This is correct because we are using e.g. to introduce a list of examples of the different sketch tools. In this sentence, e.g. could be replaced with “for example” (so we know it is used correctly):
Use the sketch tools (for example, line, 3-point arc, fillets, etc.) to create the sketch.
If multiple symmetries can be set when you are assigning circular symmetry, the possible symmetries are listed (i.e., 2-sided, 4-sided, 8-sided, etc.).
In this example, i.e. should be replaced with e.g. because we are providing a list of the possible symmetries and not an alternate explanation.
Construction features created in a form feature in the FORM environment are listed in the BROWSER, but they cannot be modified (i.e., their offset or angular values cannot be changed).
This is correct because we are providing an alternate explanation for “cannot be modified.” In this sentence, i.e. could be replaced with “that is” (so we know it is used correctly):
Construction features created in a form feature in the FORM environment are listed in the BROWSER, but they cannot be modified (that is, their offset or angular values cannot be changed).
Select the next loop of edges (e.g., the 4th loop working your way up from the bottom).
In this example, e.g. should be replaced with i.e. as we are providing further clarification on what is meant by “the next loop.”
It can be tricky to figure out which abbreviation is the appropriate choice for your sentence, but if you keep their translations in mind, you will find it’s easier to choose the correct one.