CHARIS FOR WRITING LESSON 69: Know your abbreviations in English I

E.g……..I.e………[sic]: An example that is very sick!!!

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A warm welcome to this week’s lesson and a big thank you to you for following our posts and sending us those wonderful comments. After our series for thesis writers, our lesson today will move us to something we use in general writing. Have you wondered what these abbreviations really meant: e.g, i.e, [sic], NB, et al. and etc?

  1. e.g.: Ex-Gratia? Nope, For example.

You probably already know that this word means for example, but what really is the relationship between E.G and for example? Shouldn’t it be f.e? Or were they spelling example as egzample?

E.g. is actually a Latin word- exempli gratia- which is translated “for example” in English. This word is used when about to list one or many members of a group in a list that does not cover all the members of the group. It is usually written like this with two dots and does not need FOR to introduce it. You do not also need to put etc. at the end because e.g. already means the list is not exhaustive.

Many pets, e.g. dogs, cats, and fish, get used to their owners quite quickly

There was a large number of celebrities, e.g. actors and musicians, at the book launch

  1. i.e.: Another Latin word abbreviated and adopted into the English Language (I remember this word because a lot of my Francophone students studying English always had difficulty understanding it).

This word is originally “id est” and for those of us speaking the Queen’s language, it would mean something in the region of “that is”. Please, do not ask me what that is. What is that? That is. Period.

This word is used when explaining a word or idea further (because you can sense the readers did not really get it the first time). In other words, i.e. really means what I am actually trying to say is…

Lending a helping hand to others is to many people an act of self-gratification, i.e. people are generous only so that they can feel good not really because they are sensitive to need.

The Ghanaian national football team, i.e. The Black Stars, has often had a love-hate relationship with supporters.

Classical tragedy is intended to produce pathos in the audience, i.e. not bathos but pity and fear

  1. [sic]: Does this abbreviation have anything to do with being sick? I hope not but in a sense, it means there is something that is not too well with the sentence.

This abbreviation is inserted at places in a write-up where a writer is quoting someone else and believes that the original writer has made a mistake in the quote. This error could be grammatical, typographical, semantic or a misinformation. Whatever it is, the writer (the new one quoting another person) wants to be clear that he/she was not the one who made the mistake but the error existed in the original version.

Its full rendering in Latin is sic erat scriptum, which means “thus was it written”.  Get it now? Some examples:

She wrote, “They made there [sic] beds.”

Note: The correct sentence should have been, “They made their beds.

During the noon hour, Hernandez posted a message to his supporters on Facebook.  It says, “I wan [sic] to publicly thank everyone who has been so supportive of me and my family these past few days… .” [KCBD]

Note: The correction should be “want”

The company is selling a T-shirt for girls with the following grammatically incorrect sentence written in shiny silver print: “If your [sic] single, so am I.” [NY Daily News]

Note: The correction should read “you are”

Of course, you can make corrections when writing your own piece but once you begin to quote, you dare not make any corrections at will. But this abbreviation must be used sparingly and you must be 101% sure that it is an error not a variation in language or form or your own ignorance.

Next time, we will look at NB, etc and et al. We hope you learnt something from this lesson.

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