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Word Usage: ie and eg

The abbreviations ie and eg are Latin expressions that are often used in English writing. But authors sometimes use ie where eg is required and vice versa. Which abbreviation is which? This usage tip explains the difference.

The abbreviation ie introduces specific information that includes all possibilities. The abbreviation eg, however, introduces one or more examples from a larger set of possibilities. Inadvertently using one abbreviation when the other is intended is a common error.


ie: that is

None of the regions tested (ie, hypothalamus, thalamus, spinal cord) contained these cells.

eg: for example

Students may take one social science course (eg, psychology, sociology, linguistics) and one physical science course (eg, geology, physics, astronomy).

Quick Tips: ie versus eg

Speedy pencil: quick grammar tips

  1. If you introduce a list with eg, do not conclude it with etc ("and so forth"). The abbreviation eg already indicates that some items will not be listed.
  2. Style guides differ in how ie and eg should be treated: italicized or not, with or without periods (i.e., e.g.), always abbreviated or only in parentheses and tables. No matter which style you use, be consistent.

  3. Do you have a question or comment about this tip? Simply contact me online and I'll be pleased to help.

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