I previously blogged on abbreviations, especially Latin editing abbreviations used frequently by writers and editors. This post follows up with more tips.
Latin Editing Abbreviations — Memory Joggers
If you’ve ever been confused when deciding which to use e.g. or i.e., you are not alone. These two Latin editing abbreviations are not interchangeable, but there’s a way to remember each and when to use them. Consider the mnemonics below that help us differentiate. Mnemonics are learning techniques that help you retain and retrieve the data in your brain. In other words, mnemonics help with memory and recall.
e.g. or i.e.?
Definition: e.g. (or exempli gratia) means “for example” or “for instance.”
Mnemonic: e.g. begins with an “e” and so does “example” — a helpful way to remember to use e.g. rather than i.e.
Usage: e.g. is used more frequently in academic papers. Otherwise, writers use the less formal “for example.” Merriam-Webster gives us this example: “Submit a sample of academic writing—e.g., a dissertation chapter.”
Compare this to:
Definition: i.e. (or id est) means “that is” or “in other words.”
Mnemonic: i.e. begins with an “i” and so does “in other words” — a helpful way to remember to use i.e. rather than e.g.
Usage: Merriam-Webster gives us this example: “The cough may last for a short period of time—i.e., three to five days.”
et al. or et cetera (etc.)?
Definition: et al. (et alia) means “and the other things” or “and the rest” or “and so on.” And yes, there is always a period after et al. no matter where it appears in a sentence.
Mnemonic: et al. refers to people, NOT things. Think of the “al” in et al. as a person named Albert — a helpful way to remember to use et al. rather than etc. in a list of people.
Usage: Merriam-Webster gives us this example: “The book by Carson et al. is regarded as the authoritative text on the topic.:
Compare this to:
Definition: et cetera or etc. means “and the other things” or “and the rest” or “and so on.” Note that all Latin abbreviations should be italicized, but we often see etc. without italics in everyday writing. Grammarists, however, will tell you that etc. should be italicized.
Mnemonic: etc. refers to things, NOT people. How do you remember that etc. is reserved for things and not people? I personally associate the letters in etc. with “everything counts” — emphasis on “thing” in everything.
Usage: Here’s an example off the top of my head: “Encourage your children to help around the house—dusting, folding clothes, etc.”
I hope these examples of Latin editing abbreviations are helpful. Have questions? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll be glad to collaborate.