In an academic, format context, can we write id est instead of its abbreviated form (i.e.)?


‘a walking boot which is synthetic, id est not leather’


‘a walking boot which is synthetic, i.e. not leather’

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    You "can". But why? To look foolish or pretentious? If you want something longer than "i.e." you may use "that is". – GEdgar Jan 25 at 11:39
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    Well, you just used "in lieu" in non-academic writing, so yeah I can see you using you "id est" in academic writing. The real question is, why. If you want to write in Latin, just write in Latin. It's a thing. – RegDwigнt Jan 25 at 11:53
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    If you're worried people might not think well of your writing abilities, concentrate on learning the basics, such as ...instead of its abbreviated form first. – FumbleFingers Jan 25 at 15:34
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    @RegDwigнt "in lieu of" is a commonly used expression. "id est" is not – Kevin Jan 25 at 16:42
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    @EricLippert That is, quite simply, terrible advice. The abbreviations i.e., e.g., and etc. are all perfectly natural and normal parts of English – a lot of people likely don’t even realise that they’re Latinate. They’re all used by native English speakers in natural, non-academic spoken language, and using unabbreviated English phrases in their stead is often not an improvement. Et al. cannot be substituted for ‘and all others’ in its commonest usage (multiple authors in bibliographies). Avoiding Latinisms is not and should not be a goal in itself. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Jan 26 at 13:05

Id est is not commonly used in academic writing today. Two reasons come to mind.

The usage is at best uncommon: A basic JSTOR search will churn up articles dealing with Latin sources, where id est occurs in larger samples of Latin text. Even when I limit the search to 2000 and later, the top sources are all Latin-facing, with titles like:

"Alabastrum, id est, corpus hominis": Alabaster in the Low Countries, a cultural history

The sources are Latin-centric even if we sort the results by "newest," which gives plenty of results working on the Aeneid and other Latin texts. (Sorting by "Relevance" privileges mentions of "id est" in the title, even if the search is full text.) Even if we could find an "id est" usage in English text in one of the 21,659 results as of this search, it would pale in comparison to the 1,684,336 results for "i.e."

Academic style guides discourage id est: Style guides either don't recognize the use of id est or make recommendations that preclude its use.

APA 6th Ed.:

4.26 Latin Abbreviations: Use the following standard Latin abbreviations only in parenthetical material; in non-parenthetical material, use the English translation of the Latin terms; in both cases, include the correct punctuation that accompanies the term.

Subsequently, i.e. is only listed with the translation "that is," rather than "id est."

MLA 8th Ed.:

1.6.2 Common Academic Abbreviations: The following abbreviations are recommended for use in the works-cited list and in in-text citations. Where confusion may result, spell out the words instead.

Subsequently, i.e. is listed as "that is (from the Latin id est; set off by commas, unless preceded by a different punctuation mark)."

Both style guides treat "i.e." as an abbreviation that has gone beyond its Latin form. Most academic readers don't learn Latin today, so id est would be less familiar than the abbreviation. So the typical academic writing strategy is to use i.e. in parentheses, notes, or citations, and to use an English translation in main text.

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    @Juya You'll most likely confuse your examiner and get marked down... or get marked down - legitimately - for something which might be considered technically correct by someone somewhere but is completely unidiomatic. Worst case, you'll irritate them with your showing off. Don't do it: knowing that i.e. is id est is just trivia and has no practical use in English. – tmgr Jan 25 at 14:42
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    @Juya - Just never do it. File it away as a fun fact and amaze your friends with it, but never write it. – Jim Jan 25 at 14:42
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    @Juya What they said. It's not that it's unacceptable, as there's no hard rule against it, but it's rhetorically risky and unnecessary, and therefore you shouldn't do it. – TaliesinMerlin Jan 25 at 14:43
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    The Oxford university "internal" style guide even eliminates the dots for this and many other abbreviations, ie it gives the abbreviation as just ie not i.e. But in general, American English orthography is more conservative than British English about such things. – alephzero Jan 25 at 17:14
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    @Juya And by the same token, also only use "e.g." and not "exempli gratia". – Graham Jan 25 at 18:26

No, you should not use it. i.e. may have a Latin origin, but its current usage is determined by how English writers use it; it is now an English construction in its own right. id est is not used by English writers, and so would be as out of place in normal English writing as any other phrase from another language.

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