The abbreviations “i.e.” and “e.g.” have distinct meanings, but are often incorrectly used interchangeably. Here's the straight scoop on how to use them correctly. Remember: When using either abbreviation, be sure to follow it with a comma, as we've done appropriately in the examples below.
The abbreviation “i.e.” means “that is“ or “in other words.” It abbreviates the Latin phrase, “id est,” which translates, “that is.” Use this abbreviation when you want to restate the subject of the sentence in slightly different terms. Here's an example of correct usage:
The abbreviation “e.g.” means “for example.” It abbreviates the Latin phrase, “exempli gratia,” which translates, “by way of example.” Here's an example of correct usage:
Note: Always use a comma after “e.g.” or “i.e.” to let the reader know that the preceding period does not indicate the end of the sentence.
The abbreviation “et al.” means “and all others.” It abbreviates the Latin phrase, “et alia,” which translates, “and all others.” The period is needed after the “al” to indicate the abbreviation of the Latin word “alia.” The term “et al.” is often used when citing multiple authors for a single work. The first one or two (usually primary) contributors are listed, and “et al.” is used to indicate all the rest. It's also used to represent additional plaintiffs or defendants in a lawsuit. Here are some examples:
Note: If you use “et al.” within the body of a sentence (not at the end) be sure to follow it with a comma to let the reader know that the preceding period does not indicate the end of the sentence.