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Thursday, November 24, 2005 Bookmark Now! | Email to a friend  

What's the difference between e.g. and i.e.?

English is a complex language full of rules, exceptions, and exceptions to those exceptions. Simple ways to keep track are as rare as the rules are many. Remembering that your principal is your pal and that you can't get "there" without "here" are handy, but what about the oft-confused i.e. and e.g.? Read on for a simple way to remember the difference.

While they certainly look similar, their meanings are distinct. Basically, i.e. means "in other words" and e.g. means "for example." You can use i.e. to clarify and simplify: "We hope you read my blog! because it's an entertaining way to learn new things (i.e., it's fun)." E.g. comes in handy to back up statements with examples: "There are a lot of fun things you can do on the Web (e.g., read my blog!)."

As for tricks to remember which one to use when you're in the middle of a speech and have to think fast, think of e.g. as shorthand for "example given" and, as this page suggests, i.e. for "in effect." Of course, if you're still not sure, you can simply avoid using them altogether. Notice how we never use semicolons?

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