11

Are these two sentences examples of the correct use of "viz."?

This book is dedicated to my family, viz. my parents and two sisters.

The purpose of this book is twofold, viz. 1) to show that [...]; and 2) to demonstrate that [...].

Is this technically correct? Even if it is, do you think native English speakers would find it weird or inappropriate?

  • 1
    I would recommend using alternate wording, such as "namely". – yoozer8 Sep 23 '11 at 18:20
  • 2
    I would not include the word at all in the second example. It's worthless/obfuscating verbiage. OP should replace ",viz. with a colon (:), and delete his own semicolon. The first usage is slightly odd to my ear, because normally viz is used to "restate" the previously-mentioned subject for clarification or to add extra detail. In this example we would all understand that my parents and two sisters were "family" anyway, so why bother with the "my family, viz." part at all? – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 18:35
  • 1
    Agree with last two comments: in particular, I don't quite see the point in using an obscure Latin abbreviation when there's a nice, short, normal, universally understood word that you can use instead. – Neil Coffey Sep 24 '11 at 1:52
  • @FumbleFingers, Agree with the first point. However, for the second point, how would you concisely convey the info that his family only includes his parents and two sisters? – Pacerier Jul 8 '14 at 9:48
  • @Pacerier: It would be rather odd, to say the least, if in fact he had three sisters, but only dedicated his book to his parents and two of the sisters. In such a case I think you might reasonably expect some further explanation in the author's preface about why he did this. – FumbleFingers Jul 10 '14 at 12:01
13

Yes, those are correct usages. Use viz. just as you would use namely. Wikipedia's examples:

  • The main point of his speech, viz. that our attitude was in fact harmful, was not understood.
  • "My grandfather had four sons that grew up, viz.: Thomas, John, Benjamin and Josiah."
  • The noble gases, viz., helium, neon, argon, xenon, krypton, and radon, show a non-expected behaviour when exposed to this new element.

Viz. is short for the Latin videlicet, which means namely. Though I am a native English speaker, and I would not find this weird or inappropriate, it is uncommon, and most people would have to look it up in a dictionary. It would be better to use namely or that is to say instead.

Edit: I find this Ngram rather informative, too. Once, apparently, viz. was more popular than namely:

Most of the modern usages of viz. are not the abbreviation in question, but nearly all the older ones are.

  • Ah, you beat me to the namely ngram. However, I included "specifically" on mine as well. – yoozer8 Sep 23 '11 at 18:27
  • 2
    +1 for that is to say. If you can't comfortably replace viz. with exactly that, you're probably misusing it. – FumbleFingers Sep 23 '11 at 18:37
  • 1
    Hmm? What are the other modern usages of viz? – Karl Knechtel Sep 23 '11 at 20:27
  • 3
    @Karl Knechtel: It's UK-based, but the adult comic Viz does have an online presence now. As they cheerfully describe themselves, it's the magazine that's better than nothing. I've often wished they would keep copies in doctors' waiting rooms, where the usual offerings are invariably worse than nothing. – FumbleFingers Sep 24 '11 at 0:12
  • 2
    I think the graph does show you something, although as ever you just need to be slightly careful that one of the things it is comparing is "what styles of writing are in Google's database from the 1800s" vs "what styles of writing are in Google's database from more recent times". – Neil Coffey Sep 24 '11 at 1:49
4

I think it might be found a bit weird in either case. Being a native speaker who has never seen the term before, I thought it might be interesting to see its usage (the abbreviation viz. and its full form videlicit), so I check a Google Ngram.

Not too common a phrase these days it seems.

enter image description here

EDIT:
Thanks to drɱ65 δ for pointing out that the Ngrams do not support periods in search terms. I've performed another search, without the period, and got quite different results.

enter image description here

EDIT:
Since these both showed dramatic tapering off as we approach modern times, I compared "viz" to two suitable replacements, viz. "namely" and "specifically".

enter image description here

I would suggest using a more modern term in place of viz.

  • 1
    The Ngram is incorrect. The search does not support periods, so any search term including a period will flatline. – Daniel Sep 23 '11 at 18:21
  • Oh. I was unaware of that. Thank you for heads up. I shall try it again without the period and see how it turns out. – yoozer8 Sep 23 '11 at 18:22
  • Specifically is a good replacement in many cases. – Daniel Sep 23 '11 at 18:29
  • 1
    @Jim, But "specifically" cannot replace all cases. So it's not really a good comparison imo. – Pacerier Jul 8 '14 at 10:19
0

The question already has a great answer that I can't improve on. But I'm adding a compare and contrast to e.g. and i.e. since they are so often confused. I'm hoping a compare and contrast may be helpful to future readers that arrive here as I did (internet search).

e.g. is Latin for exempi gratia, and it's used to mean "for example." If I state that "we accept all major credit cards; e.g., Visa and MasterCard," that means that we accept Visa and MasterCard, as well as other, un-named credit cards that would also be considered "major." (In this case, the phrasing is ambiguous since customers won't know what other credit cards are considered "major.")

i.e. is Latin for id est, and it's used to mean "that is." And "that is" is used to indicate a rephrasing. If I state, "We accept all major credit cards; i.e., Visa and MasterCard," that indicates that that I'm defining "all major credits cards" as just Visa and MasterCard, and those are the only two that I accept.

viz. is Latin for videlicet, and it means "namely." It is really a sub-type of i.e. where you are rephrasing something, but the manner of rephrasing is to list items by name; "We accept all major credit cards; viz., Visa and MasterCard."

The difference between e.g. and viz. is not particularly subtle, but still confused. Both are rephrasing. The abbreviation e.g. is a rephrasing of any kind, while viz. is rephrasing specifically in the style of an extensional definition. (See https://www.revolvy.com/page/Extensional-and-intensional-definitions or https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extensional_and_intensional_definitions.)

The original post asked "Do you think native English speakers would find it weird or inappropriate?" Unfortunately yes. It seems the vast majority of native English speakers have never bothered to crack a dictionary to look these up. I've had numerous college professors and known numerous physicians who incorrectly use "i.e." when they mean "for example." I've even seen professionally published, printed articles use i.e. when e.g. is called for. Because of that, the most current guidance I have read is to avoid the abbreviations. For example, the Chicago Manual of Style (16th ed) recommends that they be "... confined to bibliographic references, glossaries, and other scholarly apparatus."

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.