I.e. and e.g. and etc. – Oh, my!
Commonly – and often incorrectly – interchanged, these Latin abbreviations have slightly different meanings. E.g. stands for exempli gratia and can be used in place of ‘for example’. I.e., on the other hand, stands for id est, and roughly translates to ‘that is’ or ‘in other words’. As such, i.e. implies an explanation follows.
Let’s consider some examples:
I like to drink tea (e.g. mint and English breakfast)
Here, e.g. shows the teas are examples of the varieties I like, but it’s not exclusive – there could be others.
I like to drink tea (i.e. mint and English breakfast)
Here, on the other hand, it can be assumed that mint and English breakfast are the only flavours I like to drink.
The other Latin abbreviation we see a lot is ‘etc.’, short for et cetera, meaning ‘and so forth’. This one certainly has its uses, but overusing it can look careless. It’s better to give the full list of things wherever possible, rather than trailing off with ‘etc.’ – as though you couldn’t be bothered to finish your sentence.
A bonus tip is that you should never use ‘e.g.’ and ‘etc.’ together. ‘E.g.’ already implies that what follows is an incomplete list, so you don’t need to say ‘etc.’ afterward!
Is it all right to use ‘alright’?
While the use of ‘alright’ is rife in modern communication, and it may be well on its way to standardisation, it is not yet considered acceptable in any form of edited writing. So play it safe – always use two words and you’ll be all right.
Anyway vs anyways
Where did the ‘s’ come from, anyway? Wherever it did, send it back. In formal written communication, the only form you need is anyway.
Know your homophones
Mixing up two or more words that sound the same but are spelled differently may be one of the easiest grammatical mistakes to make – and among the most noticeable to those in the know.
Notorious examples include your/you’re, its/it’s, their/there/they’re, and then/than. Most people know when they don’t know which one is right, but can’t be bothered to Google. Slowing down and ensuring the correct word is being used will save you grief and embarrassment in the long run. If you have a particular stumbling point, it doesn’t hurt to print out a quick guide to stick up near your desk!
A simple rule of thumb is to write contractions out in full if you’re unsure whether to use them. If you are doesn’t make sense in context, for example, you’ll want to use your. To clarify, it’s is short for it is and they’re is for they are. There refers to a location, and then indicates time, while than is used to compare two things.
Will you be enquiring or inquiring about grammar tips today?
Although enquire and inquire have similar meanings, they are generally not interchangeable. Enquire should be used in the general sense of asking a question, whereas inquire should be used to refer to a formal investigation. I might, for example, make an ‘enquiry’ after your favourite type of ice cream (mint chocolate, right?). But save ‘inquiry’ for government inquests and similar examinations.
Commas can be tricky – just put them where there’s a pause in a sentence, right? Unfortunately, it’s not quite so simple. An incorrect or omitted comma can make your writing look sloppy and amateurish. For example:
I went to the cinema, it was fun.
This is incorrect. It is what’s termed as a ‘comma splice’: I went to the cinema and it was fun are two independent clauses and should be separated with either a full stop, semicolon or conjunction like so:
I went to the cinema; it was fun.
I went to the cinema and it was fun.
Alternatively, the omission of a comma can change the meaning of your message. An example is the famous difference between Let’s eat Grandma! and Let’s eat, Grandma!
Without a comma between ‘eat’ and ‘Grandma’ in the first sentence, the writer is unintentionally communicating that they want to eat their grandma!
These simple examples may seem harmless, but misplaced commas in legal documents and contracts can have real consequences for businesses.
The rules that govern comma usage, however, require a deeper understanding of grammar and syntax than it’s worth most people taking the time to learn. Why not just leave it to the experts? If you’re after more help, get in touch to learn what Mint can do for your business today. And let us know – what are your biggest grammatical questions to address in our next post?