Four Little Words: e.g., i.e., It's and Its

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Four Little Words: e.g., i.e., It's and Its

In this edition of Pruphreeding 1 oh One, we look at four words that can trip up even the most veteran of writers…and none of the words is longer than three letters.

i.e. and e.g.

These two have a few things in common. First, they’re both acronyms. Second, they’re both acronyms for Latin phrases. And, third, if you use them incorrectly, who really gives a rat’s %&#?

But, humor me for a few moments.

The acronym e.g. stands for exempli gratia, meaning “for example.” As in:

VGM Group, Inc. consists of many companies (e.g., VGM Club, VGM Forbin, U.S. Rehab).

The acronym i.e. stands for id est, meaning “in other words.” As in:

She enjoys mountain biking, i.e., bounding headlong down rocky, twisting paths that have a sole purpose of breaking a person’s neck.

If you’re unsure which to use, substitute “for example” or “in other words” for the acronym and use the one that makes sense.

How to use e.g. and i.e.:

  • Both are lower case when used within a sentence. – e.g. and i.e.
  • A period is used between each letter and after the second.
  • A comma ALWAYS immediately follows each – e.g., and i.e.,
  • If you want the examples to stand out from the rest of the sentence, enclose e.g. and i.e. and their examples within parentheses. – (e.g., VGM Club, VGM Forbin, U.S. Rehab)

Now that I have you thoroughly enthralled, we move on…

It’s and Its

These two little words mess with more heads than you can imagine. But, once you learn the difference, they’ll never mess with yours again. The rules for their use are very simple:

It’s is ALWAYS a contraction for “it is” or “it has.” Always. No exceptions. As in:

It’s a long way from Waterloo to Hawaii. and

It’s been five months since the last Heartland Conference.

Its (without an apostrophe) is ALWAYS the possessive of the pronoun “it.” Always. No exceptions. As in:

The United States and its ally, Canada, share the world’s longest demilitarized border.

That’s it. Four little words. Who says size matters?