That is not right

If you’re following these instructions on Yahoo! Makers, you may be stumped when it comes to step 3:

ie mak

Well, I guess that instruction would work if your initials and the initials of your beloved are K.B. and W.C. Otherwise, you’re screwed. Who wants a keepsake with someone else’s initials burned into it?

Of course, an editor familiar with common abbreviations (even those taken from Latin words) would have changed that i.e. to something else. A competent editor would know that i.e. stands for id est, meaning “that is or namely.” It’s often confused with e.g., which is the abbreviation that means “for example.” But why use an abbreviation at all? If you’re a Yahoo! writer, you’re sure to use the wrong one and your reader might not understand either one. So, go with real English words; for example, for example.

That is wrong

Here’s a novel idea: Don’t use abbreviations you don’t understand. If the writer for Yahoo! Makers had followed that advice, she wouldn’t have used the abbreviation i.e. (which is short for the Latin id est, or that is):

ie for eg mak

The writer is giving an example of an “infinite” mystery, not explaining what it is. If she’s going to use a Latin abbreviation, the correct one is e.g. — not that I’m recommending it. Writers, editors, and readers don’t understand i.e. or e.g. There are alternatives to using e.g., like such as, for example, for instance, and like.

That is not right

Abbreviations are handy little devices for communicating quickly and for conserving precious space online. But some abbreviations are so often misused that they’re not worth the time and space savings. That’s the case with the abbreviations i.e. and e.g., as illustrated by Yahoo! Style:

ie style

Even if the writer had included the period after the E and a comma after the entire abbreviation, it would still be wrong. The abbreviation stands for the Latin id est, which means that is. The writer meant e.g., the abbreviation used before an example.

These abbreviations are not only used incorrectly by most writers, but they’re also misunderstood by 90% of all readers. So why risk using the wrong abbreviation and confounding your readers? There are simple words (e.g., that is or for example) that you can use with confidence.

Try to figure this out

Some of you out there may be able to figure this out. I know I can’t. There’s some Yahoo! Shine words, I think. And then there’s something one huge sock that fills an entire box:

At least I’ve figured out why you shouldn’t use the abbreviations i.e. or e.g.: You have a 50-50 chance of using the wrong one, just like this writer did:

The abbreviation i.e. is short for the Latin id est, which means that is. What the writer should have used is something like “for example.” (The abbreviation for the Latin is e.g., which I also don’t recommend using.)

Frankly, I don’t know what Yahoo!’s standard is for capitalizing Internet, and neither do Yahoo!’s writers: It appears as both a common and a proper noun throughout Yahoo!’s sites. I’m just saying. But that’s not the only confusion in this paragraph:

There’s an extra word (I think) and the misuse of the contraction it’s (which should by they’re because the pronoun refers to the plural items).

OK, some authorities look the other way if a writer uses their as a singular possessive pronoun when the gender of the antecedent (the person the pronoun refers to) is unknown. But, heck, presumably a husband or boyfriend is male; the correct pronoun in this case is his:

There’s some guesswork involved in trying to figure out what the heck the writer means here:

I’m thinking that there are too many words there, and at least one incorrect word. The pronoun I is wrong; it should be me because it is the direct object of the verb tell. But don’t try telling the writer that. I think it’s a tad advanced for her.

Abbreviations (e.g., i.e.) spawn confusion

Abbreviations can leave readers befuddled, especially abbreviations of Latin. They also befuddle some writers, as the Yahoo! Search blog illustrates:

The writer is giving an example of an athlete’s name, and the correct abbreviation is e.g. But why use an abbreviation at all and risk confusing your readers?

Some errors (e.g., using the wrong abbreviation) …

… are easily avoided (i.e., don’t abbreviate).

Most people — including writers — don’t know the difference between e.g. and i.e.  In an informal survey of 20 college-educated adults, only one respondent knew the meaning of these two abbreviations. All others either reversed the meaning of the two (saying, for example, that e.g. meant that is) or ignored the abbreviations when reading.

In this sample text entry from Yahoo! Small Business, the writer really means for example or e.g.

Click the little question mark button and you’ll get more information — and what the writer intends to be examples:

If you’re giving an example, precede it with for example, for instance, like, or such as — and not e.g. If space is really tight (as it often is on a Web page), use just the word example or the shorter ex

Instead of using the abbreviation i.e. (short for the Latin id est or that is), use that is. Better yet, explain what you mean so clearly that the parenthetical that is is unnecessary.

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