Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Using ie and eg

I was surprised to discover today that I have been incorrectly using ie where eg is correct. It seems ie is the Latin initials of "that is" and should be used to clarify a reference to a specific thing while eg is the Latin initials of "for example" and should be used when giving an example of something. I think I knew eg meant for example but I mostly used ie which I thought could be used in either way. A little disconcerting to find out you have been making a mistake for practically your entire life.

I blame my parents.


  1. The question is have you ever made a mistake in solving math puzzles. I almost doubt!

  2. My understanding is that formally one is supposed to put the periods in, i.e., like this, and include a comma after them. Next we should have a lesson on the proper use of "which" and "that." Our parents didn't teach us that either.

  3. I was leaving the periods out on purpose so that doesn't bother me.

  4. Next we should also have a lesson explaining why punctuation is included within quotation in English. E.g., like "this," or "this." I missed that one lesson, and it seems people who know the explanation all moved to a better climate.

  5. Hi James and Peter,

    Too bad! Taking Spanish in school doesn't help with Latin abbreviations. Of course, I did take Latin in school, but don't remember much of it. However my in-house editor remembers his Latin and will spell the words out for James. They do require periods when abbreviated. Also he had an unforgettable teacher of grammar and punctuation in school, and frequently reminds me of her instructions when he reads my outgoing e-mails. He will explain “which” and “that” when he has more time. It seems that teachers have a role to play in teaching these rules to young people and not just parents. So there! Mom

    P.S.: I have been recruited to remember Latin from nearly 60 years ago:
    “i.e.” abbreviates “id est”, which means “that is”.
    “e.g.” abbreviates “exempli gratia”, which means “for the sake of an example”, usually restated as “for example”.
    The teacher to whom your mother refers was Miss Best. She stood strong for principles that are much ignored today, but I have tried to keep the faith. – the in house editor