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).
“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.