Writing wrongs #5: abbreviation celebration

Seeing as it’s that time of year, when everyone is giving gifts and spreading the love like warm Nutella, I thought I’d share a little joy of my own by helping you solve a common wish-list writing dilemma:

Should I use e.g. or i.e.?

In general, I try to avoid both and write out what I mean in full – abbreviations tend to interrupt the flow, and there’s nothing more distasteful than an interrupted flow. But if you’re emailing Santa on Christmas Eve, then there’s no time to waste. That’s when it helps to know what the hell ‘e.g.’ and ‘i.e.’ actually mean.

To make Christmas cake, you need to break some e.g.

The abbreviation e.g. comes from the Latin phrase exempli gratia, meaning ‘for the sake of example’.

I really want a pet for Christmas, e.g. a dog, a cat or a ring-tailed lemur.
I’m a big fan of Christmas films, e.g. Die Hard.

Use it in place of ‘for example’, but never at the start of a sentence. It’s typical to include two points, rather than eg, and it’s normally preceded by a comma, but not followed by one, although some styles vary coz that’s life.

I’ve got my i.e. on you and that mistletoe

I find more people get confused when it comes to i.e. It’s an abbreviation for the Latin id est, which means ‘that is’. It should be used to expand on what’s been said, usually by saying the same thing in another way.

I’m not really a cat person, i.e. I’m more of a dog person.
No one gave any gifts or drank any mulled wine, i.e. they were all Scrooges. 

Use it in place of ‘that is to say’ or ‘in other words’. Again, avoid using at the beginning of sentences, always include the full points, unless your house style says otherwise, and throw in a comma before it.

A-breee-vee-ate good times! Come on!

Get these two nailed and you’ll be able to accurately communicate this holiday season.

Dear Santa,
I would like something decent this year, i.e. the exact opposite of last year. Please could you get me an adorable puppy, e.g. a cockapoo, a miniature schnauzer or a springer spaniel, a nice bottle of red, e.g. Merlot or Shiraz, and Die Hard on Blu-ray, i.e. NOT on DVD.
Happy flying,
Sarah

To all my clients, collaborators and friends, have a wonderful holiday season. And if you’d like to make next year magical by working with me, please get in touch.