Submit Document

How to Use the Abbreviations i.e. and e.g.

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.

Click here to download

Please note that when submitting essays or theses to universities in Australia, it is preferred that you only use e.g. within parentheses, such as in the following examples:

‘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

Dr Ellen McRae,

Managing Editor,

Elite Editing.

featured image by pnoeric

3 thoughts on “How to Use the Abbreviations i.e. and e.g.”

  1. Hi.

    I've found your and another website that recommend using commas on each side of the e.g..
    The information that Australian universities prefer using e.g. with parentheses is good information too.

    However, the Style Manual (Snooks & Co, p. 155) says it is unnecessary to put commas after i.e. and e.g.

    What's your experience? It feels more common to me (but I'm a Canadian living in Australia) to not put the comma after the e.g.


    • Hi Andy,

      Thanks for your question. It is really a style issue rather than a grammatical one, meaning that it often comes down to personal choice and the context. At Elite Editing, we would only ever use ‘e.g.’ or ‘i.e.’ inside of parentheses but not outside. Normally, it is our preference to use ‘for example’ and ‘that is’, even inside parentheses, and when written out in full we would always use a comma afterwards. When using ‘e.g.’ or ‘i.e.’ inside brackets, whether or not we used a comma afterwards would probably depend on the document, how they were being used and how often. It can seem clearer and more concise to not use the comma, but my feeling is that since you would need to use one if you were writing the phrases out in full, one really should be used when using the abbreviations.

      Consistency is the most important thing. If we were to use a comma afterwards, we would ensure one is used after every instance of both ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’.

      I hope that helps!

  2. Thanks for the reply. It's always interesting to see how different editors approach different issues. With a bit more research, it looks like commas after e.g. and i.e. are the norm, moreso in North America, as well as using them within parentheses (though I commonly see them used without parentheses in technical documents here in Australia). As you say, the key is consistency!

Comments are closed.