Notes from the Proofreader: A Refresher on a Few Latin Abbreviations

In this edition of “Notes from the Proofreader” we’ll just take a quick look at the Latin abbreviations i.e.e.g., and etc.

First: a rundown of what they mean

  • I.e. is the abbreviation of id est, which means “that is” or “in other words.”
  • E.g. is the abbreviation of exempli gratia, which means “for example.”
  • Etc. is the abbreviation of et cetera, which means “and so on” or “and other things.”

Second: a summary of what they do

  • I.e. introduces a rewording or clarification of the word or statement that precedes it.
    – Alice has several pets of the feline persuasion (i.e., cats).
  • E.g. introduces a short list of examples.
    – Alice enjoys playing old-school arcade games (e.g., Pac-Man and Space Invaders).
  • Etc. indicates that a list of things is far too long to write out in its entirety.
    – Alice can name all the constellations (Andromeda, Orion, Ursa Major, etc.).

Third: a smattering of punctuation and usage notes from the Chicago Manual of Style

  • The 16th edition of CMOS states that it’s OK to use these Latin abbreviations in parentheses or in notes, but recommends using their English equivalents in formal writing.
  • E.g. and i.e. should always be followed by a comma when fulfilling their duty as introducers.
  • Etc. should always be preceded by a comma when it makes an appearance at the end of a list (it should be followed by a comma as well if the sentence continues after it).
  • Don’t use etc. in reference to people (it only applies to things).
  • List at least two items before adding etc.
  • Avoid writing “and etc.” at the end of a list (that’s like writing “and and so on” since et means “and”).
  • Avoid placing etc. at the end of a list introduced by e.g. (it’s just plain redundant).

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Resources:

“I.e.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed May 2, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/i.e.

“E.g.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed May 3, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/e.g.

“Etc.” Merriam-Webster.com. Accessed May 3, 2017. https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/etc.

Bryan A. Garner, “Grammar and Usage,” in The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 280 and 284, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch05/ch05_sec220.html.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 313, http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/16/ch06/ch06_sec020.html.

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