i.e., etc., and e.g.

by Meryl K Evans | Category: Language, Meryl's Notes Blog 5 comments

A professor I work with at NYU asked me about i.e., etc., and e.g. and when to use which. First, to make it easier to remember which one means what, here’s what they mean:

i.e. – that is (stands for id est from Latin). You can also use it to substitute, “in other words.”

etc. – and so on, and the rest (abbreviation for etcetera).

e.g. – for instance, for example (abbreviation for exempli gratia in Latin). Remember e.g. by thinking of it as “example given” and then follow it with a few examples. e.g. apples, oranges, bananas.

Rule #1: Don’t use e.g. and etc. together because you wouldn’t use for instance (meaning as an example) and then use and so on (meaning others); both phrases imply the names you named were just a part of a group. For example, “e.g. apple, oranges, etc.”

Technically, you can probably use “i.e. apples, oranges, etc.” since it’s says “that is, apples, oranges, and so on.”

Rule #2: Use periods as they’re abbreviations.

Easier workaround: instead of using the abbreviation, use “for example” or “that is” and you can rarely do wrong.

Since et means and, avoid using and with etc. ect is not the same thing.

Common Errors in English has a good explanation and examples.

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5 comments

  • Posted by Mark on December 13th, 2005, 5:20 AM

    I like your workaround, and I’d advise your colleague to avoid Latin abbreviations entirely.

    “i.e.” -> “, that is,”
    “etc.” -> “, and so on.”
    “e.g.” -> “, for example,”

  • Posted by crimsonivy on July 28th, 2011, 4:02 PM

    Why would it be problematic to include “etc.” in a group of objects specified by “e.g.”? For example (pardon the pun), if you were implying/writing about all the members of a certain group without wanting to name all of them, wouldn’t it be a good thing to include the word “etc.”? It’s basically the equivalent of saying something like the following: “I have included every shade of green in my painting, e.g. sage, kelly green, forest green, etc.” Would this be an exception that only applied when you specifically wanted to include all the members of a certain group?
    Thanks!

  • Posted by Meryl on July 28th, 2011, 4:10 PM

    crimsonivy, that’s a brilliant question and example. I’ll do some research to see if I can find out. It makes sense the way you presented it.

  • Posted by Knit Picker on August 19th, 2011, 11:06 AM

    “I have included every shade of green in my painting, e.g. sage, kelly green, forest green, etc.”

    The use of of both “e.g.” and “etc.” in this context is inappropriate because “etc.” does not convey an example. An example is something demonstrative of the group. In contrast, “etc.” in this context only indicates that there are other items in the group of examples. We already knew that the list was not exhaustive through the use of “e.g.” If the explicit examples don’t define a clear group then, perhaps, more of them should be provided in lieu of the content-free “etc.”

  • Posted by Racehl on January 28th, 2013, 2:41 PM

    Latin is the accepted standard in business, legal and technical writing.
    e.g., etc. and i.e. cannot be replaed with English equivalents in most cases.


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