i.e. and e.g. come from abbreviated Latin terms.
i.e. comes from the Latin id est, which means ‘that is’, ‘namely’ or ‘in other words’.
e.g. comes from the Latin exempli gratia, which means ‘for example’.
Here are some examples of how to use e.g. correctly:
‘John had a large collection of classic cars, e.g. a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Phaeton and an MG, which he kept in a large warehouse.’
‘Joan had errors in her essay, e.g. no commas.’
Bonus: Download our Quick Reference Guide for how to use i.e. and e.g.
‘Many people thought that John had a large collection of classic cars (e.g. a Rolls Royce Phantom, a Phaeton and an MG), which he kept in a large warehouse.’
‘Joan had errors in her essay (e.g. no commas).’
Otherwise, it is preferable for you to use ‘for example’ or ‘such as’ rather than ‘e.g.’.
Another common error found with ‘e.g.’ is the use of ‘etc.’ at the end of a list introduced by ‘e.g.’. In such cases, ‘etc.’ is superfluous because ‘e.g.’ has already told the reader that the list is incomplete and is just a sample of possibilities. (However, ‘etc.’ may be used after a list introduced by ‘i.e.’ to show it is incomplete.)
Here are some examples of how to use i.e. correctly:
‘Many people thought that John had a problem with collecting classic cars, i.e. he had too many of them.’
‘Joan didn’t spend enough time writing her essay to ensure there were few errors, i.e. she needs to spend longer on her essays if she wishes to improve her grades.’
i.e. and e.g. are now considered a common part of the English language so you should not need to italicise them, but remember that they are abbreviations so there is always a period after each letter.
Misuse of these two abbreviations is extremely high and many people confuse the two, so if you are not sure, you can always just write the words ‘for example’ or ‘in other words’.
Updated 08 October 2018
featured image by pnoeric