I studied Latin at school - not that I remember very much of what I learnt. However, what I DID remember was that there are a multitude of abbreviations that we use day-to-day in English. And, sometimes, these abbreviations can be tricky to decipher as well as use correctly. You would be wrong in thinking that Latin abbreviations are only used in academic English - that is far from the case. You are probably familiar with the abbreviations listed below, but are you confident that you know how to use them? If not, you are certainly not alone. Many of these abbreviations are prone to confusion and incorrect usage.
E.g. (for example)
This stands for "exempli gratia" in Latin - "for example" to you and me. It's not to be confused with either "i.e." or "etc." Let me give an example of how to use it in a sentence:
"Chocolate has many good and bad properties, e.g., it tastes great and offers a feel-good factor but it is also full of calories and sugar."
Remember to always place a comma after the last full stop in e.g.
I.e. (that is)
I.e. stands for "id est" in Latin, or "this is" in English. It is often confused with e.g., and it also requires a comma after its last full stop and should never be used as "because". Basically, "i.e." is used to explain a point further. So, let's give an example of its usage:
"Chocolate can be a great comforter to many people and incites many feelings of happiness and pleasure; i.e., it releases endorphins when eaten."
Et al. (and others)
In Latin, this means "et alii" which is "and others" in English. This is used in reference to listing people in a logical continuation and not things or objects, and, therefore, shouldn't be confused with "etc."
"I think everyone in my office likes chocolate - the managers, the assistant managers, the secretaries, the office juniors, et al."
Etc. (and so on)
This stands for "et cetera" in Latin and, as you probably know, "and so on" or "and other things" in English. Remember to not use "etc." as a synonym for "e.g." or "et al". Also, don't use it after "and" or when referring to people. So, here's an example:
"I like all kinds of chocolate although chocolates containing nuts - hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, cashew, almonds etc. - are my favourites."
KJ Hutchings is the founder of KJ Language Services, offering editing, writing and proofreading services and advice on how you can make your English language documents the very best they can be. For more information, visit http://www.kjlanguageservices.com/.