Scott Hanselman

Technical Documentation: What is the difference between i.e. and e.g.?

April 07, 2004 Comment on this post [6] Posted in Musings
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Writing a lot of documentation today, and I'm kind of a grammar dork, so:

A. I.e. means "that is" (to say). E.g. means "for example."
I.e. is an abbreviation for Latin id est, "that is." E.g. is for exempli gratia, "for the sake of example." So you can say, "I like citrus fruits, e.g., oranges and lemons"; or, "I like citrus fruits, i.e. the juicy, edible fruits with leathery, aromatic rinds of any of numerous tropical, usually thorny shrubs or trees of the genus Citrus." In the first sentence you are simply giving an instance of a citrus fruit; in the second you giving an explanation. E.g. simply indicates an example; i.e. specifies, explains. Compare: She loves to read non-fiction, e.g., reference books and how-to books vs. He had one obvious flaw, i.e. his laziness. []

About Scott

Scott Hanselman is a former professor, former Chief Architect in finance, now speaker, consultant, father, diabetic, and Microsoft employee. He is a failed stand-up comic, a cornrower, and a book author.

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April 07, 2004 6:16
Ouch! Man, I have really been abusing i.e.
April 07, 2004 9:23
Scott, you'll never stop amazing me on being so precise about every term (or abreviation) you use... I did know what i.e and what e.g meant, but I certainly have been using them in very imprcise ways, especially i.e ...
April 07, 2004 10:57
Thank you for the reminder! I'll be double checking my writings.
April 07, 2004 19:47
Good tips - I am sure that I have made many mistakes on this recently as well.
April 08, 2004 21:09
Yeah this one was taught to me by my first boss and mentor after college. I misused "i.e." all the time and he straightened me out. Now, like you, I can't stand it when people get it wrong. Maybe I do have some OCD... :)
April 13, 2004 4:29
He didn't like farm food, e.g. eggs, and he hated microsoft's browser, i.e. IE.
A-ok, SH?

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