Helpful Tidbits from the Writing World

by | Mar 1, 2017

As you might imagine, I get a lot of questions from people concerning writing and grammar. Tidbits, here and there. Nothing formal.

I decided to pop three items into this post:

  • “So … what the heck do ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ mean?”
  • “Have the semicolon rules changed?”
  • “When does ‘its’ have an apostrophe?”

“So … what the heck do ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ mean?”

Here’s a primer, from Lisa Toner, for using ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ (someone just said, “Finally!”).  Lisa researched the origins of these letter combinations. They go back to our roots: Latin.

I pulled this from HubSpot’s April 10, 2014 // 2:00 PM blogpost “Oops! 7 Awkward (But Common) Grammar Mistakes” by Lisa Toner (used with permission). http://blog.hubspot.com/marketing/awkward-but-common-grammar-mistakes-list

Here is number seven on Lisa’s list. I can’t say it better, so I’m sharing her ideas. (Remember, both are followed by commas [‘i.e.,’ and ‘e.g.,’]) :

“‘i.e. and e.g. are both abbreviations for Latin terms. i.e. stands for id est and is translated to mean “that is.”

e.g. stands for exempli gratia, which means “for example.”

A great trick I learned for remembering the difference between the two of these came from Grammar Girl’s blog. She teaches us to remember that i.e. means “in other words” (both start with i), and e.g. means “for example” (example starts with e).”

Thanks, Lisa!

“Have the semicolon rules changed?”

You may have noticed an update in semicolon use the past few years. Now, two sentences are often joined by a semicolon:

“I went to the doctor, yesterday; there was a long wait.”

Here is an incorrect use of a semicolon:

“I went to the doctor, yesterday; do you want to grab some dinner?”

The difference? In the first sentence, the topics are closely related. In the second, there is no connection between the thoughts.

I’m not a big fan of this format, but it comes in handy now and then. I use it to save space on a page or where two sentences would sound ‘wordy.’ The new semicolon use is a good reminder the English language changes frequently, and we must stay apprised. I take a grammar refresher course every couple of years.

“When does ‘its’ have an apostrophe?”

There is an apostrophe only if the word replaces ‘it is.’ Since this is almost always, it’s easy to forget when to ditch the punctuation.

Remember: as a possessive, ‘it’ works opposite of all other words.

We have a “dog’s bone,” our “brother’s house,” and “people’s reactions.”

However, water “leaves its mark” and a door “hangs on its hinges.”

Go figure.


Your Takeaway: From knowing the difference between ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.’ to figuring out the updated semicolon use, these bits-n-pieces may make our writing a little easier. As for ‘its’ and ‘it’s,’ this one still gives me a headache when I get sloppy (which I did just the other day, if that makes you feel better).

Final Note: These three tidbits may not seem important, but little things mean a lot in our writing. ‘Professional’ is what it is. Perhaps you’ll be surprised how often you see – and can fix – these.

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2 Comments

  1. melicampbell

    Its and whose are both frustrating exceptions to the possessive form using an apostrophe. I am wondering if these will be gone in a couple of decades. I have see a lot of people struggle with the “correct” form.

    Reply
    • Kathie York

      SO true … and you know what? I hadn’t even thought of “whose.” I think I’ll pop that in the online course I’m creating as another possessive conundrum. Thanks for stopping by!

      Reply

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