Friday, June 9, 2017

i.e. and e.g.: I'm Done

Instead of trying to explain the difference between i.e. and e.g., I'm going to propose today that we, all of us, strike these abbreviations from our writing entirely.

Reading a Supreme Court decision last week, I was amazed to see that e.g. was used where i.e. was meant.


Unless I'm mistaken on the substance—always possible, since I'm not a lawyer—Justice Sotomayor wanted the sense of in other words here; but she wrote e.g., which has the sense of for example.

Folks, written English doesn't get any higher-status than a published decision of the U.S. Supreme Court. If a distinction isn't observed there, then it's hard to maintain that the distinction exists.

This week at work, I was sent a memo that used i.e. for e.g., or maybe e.g. for i.e., or maybe both (it happened more than once). The writer was a Harvard graduate.

I'm not criticizing Harvard here, or Yale for that matter (Sonia Sotomayor's alma mater). Rather, what I take from these two examples is that i.e. and e.g. are strictly meaningless

From now on, if I want to say "for example," then that's what I'll write. Likewise for "that is," or "in other words." 

Abbreviations mar prose anyway. I hereby purge i.e. and e.g. from my written lexicon.


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Maybe you should go back to school and learn English