i.e. & e.g.

Was bedeuten diese Kürzel überhaupt und wie gehe ich mit denen um?

The abbreviation ‚i.e.‚ means “that is” or “in other words” and comes from Latin: „id est“ whereas ‚e.g.‚ means “for example”, also from the Latin „exempli gratia“. These abbreviations are always preceded by a punctuation mark, most commonly a comma or perhaps also a bracket, as in the following examples:

  • I’m interested in art history and read widely about a variety of artistic movements, e.g.[,] Neoclassicism, Romanticism, the Düsseldorf School and De Stijl. (‚e.g.‘ zu Deutsch: z.B.)
  • The artistic movement De Stijl, also known as neoplasticism, advocated pure abstraction and universality by means of a reduction to the essentials of form and color, simplifying visual compositions to the horizontal and the vertical and limiting the color palette to black, white and the primary colors (i.e.[,] red, yellow and blue). (‚i.e.‘ zu Deutsch: i.e. oder „sprich“)

The question is whether a comma should also follow the abbreviation. The answer depends on whether you are following the American style or the British style. Either style is a fine choice. Just make an effort to use one style consistently throughout your writing.

Nearly all American style guides recommend that both “i.e.” and “e.g.” be followed by a comma (this is also the case were you to write these abbreviations out as “that is” and “for example”).

  • They sell a variety of auto parts, e.g., brake pads, mufflers and gearboxes.

In British English, however, “i.e.” and “e.g.” are not followed by a comma.

  • They well a variety of auto parts, e.g. brake pads, mufflers and gearboxes.

To me, the latter just looks naked. But… vive la differénce!