Here’s an issue that’s infuriating for three reasons: (a) it’s a confusion of two entirely different things; (b) it uses two Latin terms, in their abbreviated forms, while neither one is being comprehended by the one using them; and (c) most importantly, the terms are used by folks who wish to sound more literate than then so obviously are!

Simply stated, i.e. (which when properly used should be italicized) stands for id est, with is the Latin term meaning (are you read for it…?) “that is”! No magical formula here, and no really good reason to use it—unless you DO know its meaning, are expanding on the concept already having been presented, and wish to appear more literate than you maybe are. Using “that is” would normally suffice for most situations; not adding anything at all, but making yourself clear the first time is much better…

As for e.g., this is also an abbreviation, for another Latin term: exempli gratia. It’s meaning is almost as simple; it says… (wait for it) “for example”! It’s also supposed to be italicized when written (as another foreign-language term), and is then followed with examples (generally two or more) and often then gets an “etc.” tacked on at the end. (For what it’s worth that’s also a Latin term, “et cetera”; it means “and others.” However, since it has such common usage in English writing, it no longer requires italicizing, unlike the others. Go figure that!)

So now you know the difference between those two terms, and how to use them correctly. The only other piece to this lesson is the reminder that in both situations, these should appear (along with their respective elaborations or lists of examples) within a set of parentheses. They should never be written as just a tacked-on section at the end of a sentence; they belong in their own neighborhoods.

This reminds me of the topic I want to attack, regarding the overuse of “dashes” (and the avoidance of parentheses, ellipses, semi-colons and other options—including just ending the damned sentence and starting a new one?—that plague even the most otherwise-intelligent writing that’s out there today.

Soon, I promise; maybe even tomorrow?

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