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).



“I.e.” Accessed May 2, 2017.

“E.g.” Accessed May 3, 2017.

“Etc.” Accessed May 3, 2017.

Bryan A. Garner, “Grammar and Usage,” in The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 280 and 284,

The Chicago Manual of Style, 16th Ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010), 313,