Lessons in Latin

Lessons in Latin to make better sense in English

How many times do you wonder if it’s an i.e. or an e.g.? First, make sure you know what each one means so you can use it effectively and make sure your authors use them correctly too.

What do they mean?

e.g. | example gratia for example

i.e. | id est that is

etc. | et cetera and other things

viz. | videlicet namely

et al. | et alii and others

How are they used?

Some are easier to remember than others and some appear similar. It’s best to see them in examples as a way of understanding how they are used:

I eat many fruits a day, e.g. apples, bananas, strawberries and pears.

I prefer fruits, i.e. apples or pears to vegetables, i.e. carrots or celery.

My grocery list includes a number of fresh items such as potatoes, tomatoes, oranges, parsley, etc.

We are going to buy only the packaged foods from the shopping list today, viz. breakfast cereal, sugar and tea.

I am doing the shopping for my children and their friends, et.al.

Preferred use:

It’s actually best to write out each abbreviation in full. This is easier for the reader and reduces the chances of using the abbreviations incorrectly. The abbreviated forms are acceptable when contained within parentheses or notes where short form is preferred, however.

Modern day usage prefers the written form ‘namely’ to ‘viz.’ Alternatively, use ‘that is’ (i.e.).

Avoid duplicating the meaning in a sentence by using the abbreviation and a similar phrase together. This often happens with ‘for example’ and ‘et cetera’. Here’s an example: ‘We collected the stationery such as pens, papers, books, etc.’ In this sentence ‘such as’ makes ‘etc.’ redundant. Similarly, one wouldn’t say, ‘my publisher, for example, prefers invoices to be submitted on time, in electronic form and hard copy, etc.’. The ‘etc’ and ‘for example’ cannot be used in the same sentence (one is either providing an example or referring to a range of other things).


Note that each of the abbreviated forms is punctuated with a full stop or two. Always. The punctuation must be maintained even if a comma is needed after the abbreviation. For example, I am transporting mothers and grannies, et.al., packing table cloths and bringing chairs.

However, if the abbreviation is used at the end of a sentence, the full stop serves as a period too. This can be seen in the sentences above.

Also note that the abbreviation is preceded by a comma (rather than followed by a comma which is a common mistake).

That’s a wrap, namely various Latin abbreviations explained, for example, the use of i.e., etc. and e.g., among others. I hope this improves your professional skill, that is editing and proofreading practice, and adds value to your knowledge base, quality, diligence, overall standard of service delivery, and other things.

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