Another Reason to Drop IE

I was at a bar this weekend telling a couple of friends how I’ve reflexively stopped using the grammatical device “i.e.” lately because of the industry I’m in. Whenever I have the urge to use it in a sentence, I’ve begun using “e.g.” instead. It’s really quite silly but I just can’t help it.

This sparked a bit of a dorky discussion (see: chick repellant) about what the two abbreviations really mean. “i.e.” seems the most common, but I’ve always assumed they were just two interchangeable ways to say “for example”. Turns out they aren’t, and friend #1 lost twenty bucks to friend #2 because of it.

According to the dictionary, “i.e.” means “that is to say” while “e.g.” means “for example”. So the difference would be as such:

“There are many ways to lose a race (i.e. there are a lot of obstacles to winning).”

“There are many ways to lose a race (e.g. disqualification, injury, sickness).”

So it turns out that by reducing my use of I.E., I am actually a more grammatically correct person now.

E.G. is the new I.E.

44 comments on “Another Reason to Drop IE”. Leave your own?
  1. BG says:

    What are you saying here?

    Surly, on its own, “e.g.” isn’t more grammatically correct that “i.e”. It all depends on the context. You were just using the two incorrectly.

    Nevertheless, I have recently reduced my usage of IE and starting using Mozilla Firefox.

  2. Randy says:

    The Latin behind i.e. is id est which simply means “that is.” So you can use i.e. if there is only one example:

    There was only one way the USA would lose the 4 x 100 medley relay, i.e., if they are disqualified.

  3. Mike D. says:


    True, on its own, e.g. is not more grammatically correct, but what I said was that I was overusing it, so by using it less, I am now more grammatically correct. I’m sure others are using it incorrectly as well.

  4. sorry, but i.e. and e.g. are different things, and one is certainly not better than the other. define “grammatically better”. your “argument” is just a non sequitur.

  5. ah ok…i see what you mean now. quickly reading over your entry, though (combined with the title) i could have sworn you were making an argument about e.g.’s superiority ;)

  6. Mike D. says:

    Ha, no problem Patrick. I guess my argument is more that IE is perhaps as overused in the grammar world as it is in the browser world.

  7. Brent says:

    I was under the impression that i.e. and e.g. where the same thing for the longest time. I learned about 6 months ago this very thing that they are different and are intended for different uses. Unfortunately, there are a lot of people out there who still use it wrong.

  8. The easy way to keep them straight is to treat them as abbreviations for “in explanation” and “example given.”

  9. Trent says:

    Forget both e.g and i.e., viz. is the abbreviation of champions. Here’s why:

    1. It substitutes wonderfully for the abbreviations under discussion (viz., both i.e. and e.g.).
    2. Generally no one knows what the hell it means, which accomplishes two very important things:
      1. Your logical argument may not be sound, but it at least sounds sound.
      2. People think you are smart, which is the whole reason we use Latin abbreviations anyway.
  10. And hands down Trent wins the arguement, viz. up to this point anyway.

    Though as Mike said, IE is as overused as i.e. on the internet.

  11. gb says:

    For those of you who, like myself, were wondering what e.g. actually means (although Phil’s “example given” is a great explanation), I hit up Merriam-Webster and found: Latin – exempli gratia, or “for example.”

    Now that I think about it, I say Phil’s is a better translation.

  12. Matthom says:

    Thanks for that tip. I will point people to it, whenever a disagreement of the nature comes up.

    I learn something new every day.

  13. Mike D. says:


    Very interesting. I am always interested in using what the champions are using.

    Check out the full audio pronunciation from the Merriam Webster Dictionary of the word “videlicet” (where viz comes from). That is almost too wacky to use in conversation.

  14. Josh Dura says:

    Ok Mike, you’ve gone over the deep end…. You are a complete GEEK! :)

  15. Trent says:

    vee-doll-is-set. hmm… I think I’ll stick with vizz.

  16. Tony says:

    Wait a minute. You actually state the letter “i.e.” or now “e.g.” in a sentence? You don’t just say “Such as..” or “for example…”? I’ve always used one or the other in writing, but never in conversation. Not even when I was trying to appear all intellectual and such.

    Wow. That is some serious chick repellant. You could probably bottle that up and make a mint.

  17. Mike D. says:


    Good catch. No, definitely not in verbal conversation. Written only.

  18. Rob Mientjes says:

    vee-doll-is-set is actually the wrong pronunciation if you look at the way the Romans used to say is. It should actually be vee-doll-ik-ket, not is-set. The pronunciation of the c as an s comes from Church Latin, which varies heavily on many things to normal Latin.

    It’s the same mistake people make with Celeborn from Lord of the Rings – it’s not Seleborn, it’s Keleborn.

  19. enitsirk says:

    I had to learn the distinction when my copyeditor started circling every instance of either, noting that I needed to spell them out. A quick trip to Merriam-Webster, and I realized I, too, had been using i.e. incorrectly.

  20. Sean Sperte says:

    Small world, indeed. I have also benefited (monetarily speaking) from this revelation of grammar. My take was a mere $5, though.

    My mother was an English teacher, so I learned early on the applications of each (e.g. the way to express examples being “e.g.” and the way to show an alternate perspective being “i.e.”).

  21. Stephane says:

    I saw the same argument in a movie not long ago, I thought it was in Swinger with Vince Vaughn and Jon Favreau, but I’m not sure. Anyway your not alone in that situation.

  22. vee-doll-is-set is actually the wrong pronunciation if you look at the way the Romans used to say is. It should actually be vee-doll-ik-ket, not is-set. The pronunciation of the c as an s comes from Church Latin, which varies heavily on many things to normal Latin.

    Furthermore, according to the etymology, the second syllable contains a long e. So, that syllable would be pronounced (by the Romans, at least) like day, rather than doe. And, if I’m remembering my inflection rules (I’m studying Latin now), the second syllable would receive the accent. And the Romans pronouced a v like we pronounce a w.

    Thus the correct, Classical pronunciation:


  23. Rob Mientjes says:

    That’s funny. wee-day-li-ket is the way I pronounced it to myself, but I doubted if the Romans actually spoke their language the way we do.
    I’ve learned something new. Thanks. Now see if I can impress my Latin teacher.

  24. Sydney says:

    To be even geekier:
    i.e. is the abbreviation for id est – (Latin) – literally – “that is”.
    e.g is the abbreviation for exempla grata (Latin) for the sake of example.

  25. JN says:

    And I, coming from an English-speaking country, am heartened at the work being done here to restore the distinction between i.e. and e.g. I thought that at least one of them was doomed. Now, what about your and you’re?

  26. Joel says:

    Well if we really want to take it to the next level shouldn’t we be refering to i.e. (not counting the periods) in it’s true form: “01100101. 01000101.”

  27. I came to this page from another page on this site. The text of the link was “viz.” When I first saw viz, I was confused. But the link quickly explained things for me in a somewhat humorous manner. This thread is hilarious, and I’ll definitely be using viz in the future.

  28. Michael says:

    I was surfing the net looking for the difference between i.e. and e.g. and I happened accross this discussion. Not only was it very informative, it was also very entertaining. Being a student of archaeology, I have concluded that I needed to know the difference between the two beasties if I am to use them in academic writing. The last thing I need is for some prof to read my thesis and take out the big red pen – “Improper use of i.e. you dolt!!!!”

    Thanks all

  29. Seamus says:

    Not intending to throw this convo even farther into the realm of chick repellant; but was that silly Architect character in the Matrix actually correctly using the verbal form of this written abbreviation?


    Or was it something that made linguists (cringe/be overcome by rage) as well as the general public?

    I searched a bit, but could find no reference to clarify. (Admittedly the morning coffe is more important to me at the moment)


  30. Aaron Davies says:

    “Vee-sah-vee” is not an abbreviation at all–it’s French, and the correct spelling is “vis-à-vis”. It literally means “face to face”, and is generally used in the sense of “compared to”. (The pronunciation might be better described as “vees-ah-vee”–it’s a French thing, don’t ask.)

    You may be thinking of “vs.”, which is short for “versus”, which is Latin for “against”, and always pronounced as “versus”.

  31. emmer says:

    about the c as a hard c and not a soft c (e.g. cat vs. cereal) this mispronunciation infurates me, particularly when people use it for the word Celt/Celts/Celtic, in reference to the people from Ireland. It is with a hard c not a soft c. I realise that this has no real relevance to the conversation, I just had to intergect my two cents.

  32. ABAvery says:

    From and too good not to pass along (given the subject matter):
    Kenneth G. Wilson (1923—). The Columbia Guide to Standard American English. 1993.

    viz, viz. –
    is short for the Latin videlicet, meaning “namely.” (When you read it aloud or speak it, say namely, not VIZ.) It is usually followed by an explicit list detailing something mentioned as a whole just before it: this committee, viz Gatta, Jambeck, Moynihan, and Stern. The abbreviation resulted from the manuscript abbreviation of the Latin et cetera, which looked a bit like a letter z; the first two letters of videlicet, added to this odd-looking etc., gave us viz.

    Viz. and i.e., are sometimes used interchangeably, but Edited English and most commentators prefer that any distinction between “namely” and “that is” be kept.

  33. Bob says:

    Whoa! Ever read Orwell? In “1984” the government controlleed people by reducing their vocabulary down to a few dozen essential words, thereby reducing their capacity to think sophisticated thoughts. What you’re straying close to is imposing newspeak on yourself — why not just use i.e. whaewn you mean “that is to say” and e.g. when you mean “for example” and help keep the distinction alive? My own bugbear on this topic is the recent disappearance of the word “fewer” as anotrher opposite of “more” ( the commonly substituted one is “less”, but in many cases it’s quite wrong and jars on the ear. I’m feeling old and isolated — there are not many (even well-educated) people who could explain the rule regarding “fewer” left!


  34. Herve says:

    The abbreviation ‘viz’ should not be followed by a period, unless it is being used at the end of a sentence. Ending the abbreviation with a ‘z’ indicates that it is the end of an abbreviation. IMHO, when used in conversation it sounds better to say ‘vi-dell-i-set’, as it flows off the tongue, vs. the ‘formal’ pronunciation of ‘wi-dell-i-ket’ which sounds harsh.

    The abbreviation isn’t included in the MS Word spellcheck dictionary.

    As far as Celeborn goes, I don’t remember him being either Celtic or Roman. From my first reading of the trilogy I’ve thought the name was pronounces ‘Sel-e-born’.

  35. Tarrant says:

    I’ve known the difference between i.e. and e.g. for ages, and while I often find myself wanting to include viz. in my engineering reports, I know that nobody will know what I’m talking about, so I try to avoid it.

    And I agree with you about the misuse of the word “less” when “fewer” is correct, Bob. It certainly annoys me also. I may be only 21, but I was taught grammar by a very traditional teacher (actually, his name was also Robert and he was very fond of Orwell’s 1984. Interesting), and rest assured that I’m the one person in my group repeatedly “repelling chicks” by correctly using words like “fewer,” “whom,” awkwardly positioning prepositions at the start of clauses, etc. in my everyday speech.

  36. Stewart says:

    I too, wanted to vary my language in a formal letter which incorporated a number of references.

    I checked in a thesaurus that ‘viz’ would be suitablea nd then on a whim typed ‘abbreviation viz’ into google.

    I ended up here.

    Maybe I am not as sad as I thought I was.
    I have also switched from IE to Firefox.

  37. geekboy says:

    Odly, I was taught latin by a catholic priest so in no way am I unbiased, but we were taught that newer school of pronunciation (AE as ay) is probably wrong due to several factors. What I remember is him saying that the Classic pronunciation is probably based on germanized latin used in Holy Roman Empire in middle ages, whereas what you refer to as Church Latin — italized latin is probably closer because of way the language descended into modern italian. He also said that some pronounciations used by newer school of pronounciation are probably closer to what the nobelty and roman citizen spoke like (sorta highbrow latin) unlike italized latin which is a lot more alike what the plebs and the people around other parts of italy spoke like (the natural latin)

    Except that proper Italized Latin pronounciation for VIDELICET would not be vee-doll-is-set but either veede-leetzet or veede-leechet (hope I got the accent through as well)

  38. says:

    grammar rules!

    OK, I admit to being really excited about this discussion of how to use e.g. and i.e. in a sentence. Check the comments, someone comes in and throws down viz. – that’s crazy! Anyway, it turns out I’ve been using…

  39. say it loud, i’m geek and i’m proud

    I’ll admitting to having my share of in-depth conversations at a bar about miniscule things involving grammar, such at the proper use of a semi-colon or the appropriate use of that vs. which. I love a debate on anything. Apparently,

  40. Blawg Wisdom says:

    Writing Tip: i.e. v. e.g.

    Want to sharpen your writing? Then make sure you’re using the abbreviations “i.e.” and “e.g.” correctly by reading Another REason to Drop IE and associated comments.

  41. OcNews says:

    Another reason to drop IE

    Another Reason to Drop IE. It’s always fun to see other grammatically inclined geeks’ takes on these matters….

  42. Oisín says:

    As many others, I came to this page through a link to the word ‘viz.’ on another page—and as many others, I find the thread amusing and interesting. The previous reply is months old already, but I’m going to reply anyway :-)

    Re.: geekboy’s post —
    I’m a bit unsure of what exactly it is you dub ‘newer school of pronunciation’, ‘Classic pronunciation’, and ‘Church Latin’.

    The way the papal clergy and the Vatican and Italian churches pronounce Latin is not close to how Classical Latin was pronounced, that’s proven without much hint of doubt. It’s an approximation based on the pronunciation rules governing modern (or pre-modern) Italian.

    The pronunciation of v as [w] and of the diphthongs ae, oe as [aɪ, ɔɪ] (to rhyme with ‘eye’, ‘cloy’ in English) is definitely the ‘original’ way, i.e. (pun intended), the inherited pronunciations from pre-Latin stages.

    That [aɪ, ɔɪ] were among the first sounds to be changed is well-established fact as well, and that it started among the plebs is undisputed, too (since the highbrows would be more desperate to stay closer to the pronunciation of the corresponding diphthongs in contemporary Greek, which was generally viewed as the language to emulate when possible); but the change still didn’t take place until some time around Caesar’s time, as far as is known, which is quite a bit later than Classical Latin.

    And if your teacher claimed that “people around other parts of Italy” spoke “natural Latin”, he was quite simply wrong. At the time of the Roman Citizen (the height of the Roman Empire in its classical period), Latin was still the language/dialect of Rome, and most of Italy only spoke Latin the way a Geordie speak Queen’s English or the way an Alabaman speaks broadcaster American: as a not altogether foreign language/dialect, but not as the local, natural language, either.

    Also, if we’re talking about the Classical Latin pronunciation, videlicet would be pronounced [wi’dÉ›:likÉ›t]. Which is hard to squeeze into a regular English sentence, since neither [i] nor [É›:] exist as phonemes in English (unless you happen to be Scottish or from some parts of Australia) and the fully voiced d of Romance languages (Latin included) is equally absent from English. Then again, ‘viz.’ shouldn’t be said as ‘videlicet’, anyway, but as ‘namely’.

    Re.: Herve’s post —
    “As far as Celeborn goes, I don’t remember him being either Celtic or Roman. From my first reading of the trilogy I’ve thought the name was pronounces ‘Sel-e-born’.”

    In a way, he is actually both Celtic and Roman. Quenya and Sindarin, the two Elven languages invented by Tolkien, were (orthographically and partly also grammatically and semantically) based in part on Latin and Welsh, respectively: one Roman language and one Celtic language. And in both Latin and Welsh, c is always pronounced as a velar plosive (the ‘hard c’), never as a sibilant (the ‘soft c’). Tolkien himself specified that c represents the sound [k] in both Quenya and Sindarin, too.

    (I’m guessing this comment is about four times as long as any other comment on this page—my apologies for that.)

  43. […] possible size on screen, the font ended up looking like crap. Even today, the best web typefaces (viz. Verdana, Tahoma, Helvetica) have been specially adapted for low-resolution displays and […]

  44. Sunshinemom says:

    I just came here searching for the pronunciation and usage of viz., after an argument with my boss!! I was never confused about i.e. and e.g. but thanks for the discussion!

    @ Trent – Thanks for the link and leading the discussion to viz.,

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