Wednesday, May 13, 2009
e.g. is Latin for "exempli gratia" -- for example
i.e. is Latin for "id est" -- that is
Both are used for clarification, but they're not interchangeable.
The use of e.g. should be followed by examples, for example, in the sentence
Be sure to eat your vegetables, e.g. carrots, peas, and lettuce.
The use of i.e. should be followed by a rephrasing of the statement, that is to say you don't list a series of examples, rather you reword and perhaps elaborate on what you said to make it easier to understand.
But it can get confusing when someone rephrases a statement by making an analogy, e.g.
It's like writing a book of poetry, i.e. it's like dropping a rose petal down the Grand Canyon and waiting for the echo.
I'm not sure why this would throw many people off, but apparently it does, probably because analogies tend to be abstract, and when you're being abstract for the sake of clarification, well, much like that sentence, you look ridiculous.
The way I tell them apart is by substituting "such as" for "e.g." (just another reason to read rule v of the greatest treatise on writing there is), that usually makes it clear whether you're reading examples or a rephrasing.
If you still have trouble, you probably shouldn't be using the terms in the first place, i.e. you're a buffoon, e.g. an ape, a mongoloid, a fool.