This lesson is about the use of ‘i.e.’ in writing. You will learn the meaning of this abbreviation and why it is helpful in written communication. You will also learn how to use it correctly in your own writing and understand it in the writing of other people.
Express Yourself in Writing
Have you ever had a hard time getting your point across to other people? It can be frustrating when people do not understand what you are trying to say. What do you usually do when this happens?One of the most common ways to make your point more clearly is to give additional information. You could explain it differently or give some examples. This is fairly easy to do when you are in a conversation with someone, but it gets complicated when you are writing.
You cannot always tell when readers will not understand your writing.
What Does i.e. Mean?
Let’s say you are writing about music. You realize that just using the word ‘music’ might cause people to wonder what you mean. This is where i.e.
can help. The abbreviation i.e. comes from the Latin phrase id est, and it means that is. Another way to translate this, a way that is more familiar to some people, is in other words. Let’s look at some of the ways i.e.
could help to further explain music.
- My brother and I like music, i.e., collecting albums from the 1950s.
(This explains that the music I am writing about is music that my brother and I collect.)
- My brother and I like music (i.
e., listening to classic rock).
(This explains that I am writing about the music my brother and I enjoy listening to.)Notice in the above examples how the words ‘that is’ or ‘in other words’ could easily replace i.e.:
- My brother and I like music, in other words, collecting albums from the 1950s.
- My brother and I like music (in other words, listening to classic rock).
Most people will go their whole lives and never have the need to use i.
e.; this is because the simple English words will do the trick. Textbooks, contracts, and other formal documents may employ this Latin abbreviation to save space.
Even if you never choose to use i.e. in your own writing, it is likely that you will run across this abbreviation while reading or conducting research.The punctuation for i.e. can be tricky.
Different language usage guides, different countries, and different kinds of writing have variations in the way they punctuate i.e. in sentences. The following guidelines seem to be used consistently, though.
- There is no need to use italics (i.e.) when writing this Latin abbreviation.
(Other Latin abbreviations are commonly italicized.)
- A period follows each of the letters in this abbreviation.
- Except at the beginning of a sentence, each letter is in lower case.
- A comma usually comes before and after i.e. unless the phrase is in parentheses.
In this case, a comma comes after i.e. only. Here is an example of both cases:
Jack and Joseph share an apartment (i.
e., rental property that they bought for an investment).Jack and Joseph share an apartment, i.e., rental property that they bought for an investment.
The Latin abbreviation i.
e. is used in writing when the writer wants to provide additional information. In English, this translates to that is or in other words.
It is important to make sure that i.e. is being used correctly in the sentences you write. This means checking for correct meaning and punctuation. A comma usually comes before and after i.
e. unless the phrase is in parentheses. In this case, a comma comes after i.e. only.