When a writer uses parentheses to define a phrase or clarify a word in a sentence, is it appropriate also to use i.e. in the parentheses? That use seems redundant to me.

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    Could you perhaps give an example? Do you mean something like "we must be tougher on the trusts of our day (i.e. multinationals) because ..."? I'd say it is not impossible, but usually you would not use "i.e." for an explanation with so little focus as one that would go between brackets. In my example, commas would have been better, because the explanation is important/salient enough. In other examples, when the explanation is meant to be a very short reminder of something explained earlier, brackets without "i.e." would be enough, as in "the writer of the article (Jones) disappoints me ...". – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 30 '10 at 16:00
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    Cerberus, in your example "we must be tougher on the trusts of our day (i.e. multinationals) because..." wouldn't "e.g. (examplus gratus, good example) be more suitable than i.e. (illuc est, that is)? I thought that i.e. was used more for clarification ("i.e.", when you say something, and then wish to refine it, as I did here). – kalaracey Dec 30 '10 at 19:26
  • Do you think an example that suggests using em-dashes (i.e., dashes that look like ---) appropriate as an illustration? – Suvrit Dec 30 '10 at 20:19
  • @kalaracey: 1. You are right about the meaning of the acronyms: "e.g." stands for "exempli gratia", meaning "for [the sake of] example"; "i.e." stands for "id est", meaning "that is". // 2. In my sentence, "multinationals" was not intended as an example of modern trusts, but as THE incarnation of trusts in our time; so it was a clarification, not an example. Perhaps it could be an example in another context. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 31 '10 at 2:36
  • @Suvrit: If you mean to say that dashes would be better than commas in my first example, then I must agree. I was just trying to show how brackets are not always the best choice with "i.e.". I don't think that commas would be inappropriate, though: do you? – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 31 '10 at 2:40

The example on Wiktionary uses brackets (http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/i.e), and the at Answers.com all the examples show i.e. used in parenthetical expressions of some sort (bracket, comma or em-dash) (http://wiki.answers.com/Q/When_to_use_ie_in_a_sentence). So I would suggest it is probably a good idea, particularly if there is some doubt as to where the restatement ends and the rest of the sentence begins.

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    I took the plural "parentheses" in Cynthia's question to be about brackets only, since I believe there is consensus that "i.e." often requires some sort of parenthesis, such as commas. That is why I wish she had given an example. // You are obviously right that some mark of parenthesis is needed if there would otherwise arise ambiguity. – Cerberus_Reinstate_Monica Dec 30 '10 at 18:41
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    Example: The Federalists (i.e., those in favor of a strong central government) and the Anti-Federalists (i.e., those in favor of a weaker central government) argued their views through the press. – Cynthia Pryor Jan 5 '11 at 4:32

More than a few style guide recommend dropping such Latin abbreviations entirely suggesting "that is" instead of "i.e", "for example" where one might otherwise use "e.g.", and so on (not to say "etc.").

But if you are going to use them at all, putting them in parenthetical comments seems fine to me.

  • Certainly, using "in other words" is more transparent than using "i.e.", which forces your readers to have to remember what "i.e." exactly means... :D – user730 Dec 31 '10 at 5:30

"id est" is an English language way (albeit from Latin) of writing a set of parentheses. They are not entirely interchangeable. But the main question, which is not being answered very well by the above, is that we do not need both within the same phrase, ex., a sentence should not have both, i.e., parentheses and id est. In other words the way NOT to write what I just state is that we do not need both within the same phrase, ex., a sentence should not have both (i.e., parentheses and id est).

  • Agreed, but we also don't commonly use "ex." to indicate "example", but rather resort to the abbreviation for the Latin exempli gratia, i.e. e.g. – Cyberherbalist Dec 5 '13 at 22:53

This is a question of style, context and your intended audience. Generally, if the use of "i.e." in the parenthesis is redundant then don't include it. The following doesn't need "i.e.":

"...no historical estimates (estimates prepared prior to 1 February 2001) are available..."

I am struggling to think of a situation where "i.e." is absolutely necessary at all. I use "i.e." a lot in my writing, but I think in future I am going to assess whether they are necessary at all.

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