5 Common Mistakes People Make When They Use the “i.e.” Abbreviation

Abbreviations are there to make our lives easier, but it is extremely common for them to be used incorrectly. I.e. is one of those abbreviations that gets used improperly all the time. It gets confused with other abbreviations and gets used in the wrong places.

What is i.e.?

The definition of i.e. comes from the Latin phrase id est, which translates to “that is” in English. It’s most commonly used to avoid writing “in other words” or “that is to say”. The reason i.e. is used comes from how the English language absorbed Latin phrases.

The proper way to use i.e. is as a tool, but it doesn’t always get used correctly.  You will often see it getting confused with e.g., which many people believe to be the same thing. Keep reading for some other common mistakes.

5 Common Mistakes When Using i.e.

Confusing It with e.g.

The most common mistake we see when using i.e. is confusing it with e.g. Since they are both abbreviations, most people assume that they mean the same thing. However, this isn’t the case. E.g. stands for “for example” and is used in front of a related list of items.

I.e. means “in other words”, so it is basically rephrasing a sentence in different words. It is not an example, but an explanation. These abbreviations can’t be used interchangeably with each other, so make sure you are using the proper one.

Punctuation Mistakes

It is also common for people to forget the proper punctuation for the abbreviation. There is a required period after each letter, and the last period will be followed by a comma before continuing the sentence.

If you write ie, i.e, or ie., these are incorrect. The proper punctuation is i.e. with a comma after before leading into the explanation. If there is no explanation and it is found at the end of the sentence, use just one period and not two. If there is different punctuation, follow the period with it (i.e., i.e.!, i.e.?).

Spelling Errors

It can seem silly since there are only two letters, but it is a common mistake for people to use e.i. in a place that should be i.e. E.i. is not proper, and should not be used. It is just a misspelling and doesn’t have any real meaning.

Using in Formal Documents

The i.e. abbreviation should not be used in any type of formal documentation. It will be proper to write out “that is” or “in other words” for clarity and professionalism. The phrase is meant to be informal, and not used in a formal setting.

Not Capitalizing at the Beginning of a Sentence

Most writers think that, since it is an abbreviation, i.e. doesn’t need to be capitalized if it is at the beginning of a sentence. This is because the abbreviation will usually come at the end of the sentence, but there are some cases where it will be at the beginning.

Just like any other word that is first, the I in i.e. needs to be capitalized should it wind up at the beginning of a sentence.