October 25, 2012

Weekly Language Usage Tips: hanged or hung and dived or dove & i.e., e.g., and etc.

Posted in dived/dove, e.g., e.g./i.e., etc., hung/hanged at 6:43 am by dlseltzer

Tip 1: Hung or hanged, dived or dove

There’s a commercial on television, now. It is on TNT and is publicizing the new season of Rizzoli and Iles, a cop show in which Angie Harmon plays a detective (Rizzoli) and Sasha Alexander plays a medical examiner (Isles). In the commercial, which I assume is a scene from an upcoming episode, Rizzoli asks Isles if she has determined the cause of death. Isles replies that he was shot. And adds, “Then hung.” ‘First he was shot, and then he was hung.”

When this particular commercial comes on, I want to scream (which is also my reaction to most tv commercials). But I have a very specific reason, related to language, for wanting to scream at this. This is it. “NO,” I want to scream at my television set, “He wasn’t hung—he was hanged.”

What’s this? Hung isn’t the past tense of hang? Well it is, but only in the sense of pictures being on the wall and the occasional jury. If it relates to having  died by having a rope tightened around one’s neck, the word is hanged!

So, remember this: The pictures hung on the wall; it was a hung jury, but, the cattle rustler was hanged from the large Oak tree.

What makes me so crazy is not that they (the television people) made the mistake in the first place, but that they persist in showing off their mistake over and over again in a commercial. Surely, someone has pointed out their error by now.

And while we are talking about the misuse of words, quick—what is past tense of dive?

If you said dove, you are not alone, but you would be wrong. Dived is the past tense of dive.

So there.

Tip 2: i.e. and e.g. and etc.

A reader writes:

In looking at the prior WLUT post on this abbreviation, I notice that you used a comma after i.e. but did not formally address the punctuation issue

However, looking online, I found inconsistent recommendations about whether to use a comma after or not.


Okay, I think it is a good time to bring up ‘i.e.’ again, and I also want to talk about its partner, ‘e.g.’ because I saw it misused several times in the last couple of weeks in grant proposals and manuscripts prepared by folks here.

First, let me answer the reader’s question. Although it is not done in the UK and bloggers seem to have mixed feelings about this, there is agreement among the major style manuals that ‘i.e.’ should be followed by a comma.

Now, I will back up a little bit. ‘I.e.’ stands for id est which is the Latin for ‘that is.’

NOTE: As a matter of fact, you may want to use the words ‘that is’ in your writing instead of ‘i.e.’ It is clear, to the point, and best of all, you will never mix it up with ‘e.g.’ which is a very common mistake.

You use ‘i.e.’ when you are going to restate something or list ALL of the components of something. Here are some examples. Note the comma which follows. (You need a comma before ‘i.e.,’ too, if you are using it without a parenthetical statement.)

The health system has a policy that all individuals seeking in-person, i.e., not online, emergency services meet with a staff member for a needs assessment interview.

We propose to conduct research focused on the usage patterns, efficacy, comparative effectiveness, safety, and value of clinical therapeutics (i.e., medications, devices, procedures).

We are attempting to capture the essence (i.e., the crux) of the poem’s thematic imagery.

‘E.g.’ stands for exempli gratia which is the Latin for ‘for example.’ As I noted above for ‘i.e.,’ to ensure clarity, you may want to use the words, ‘for example’ instead of the abbreviation.

You use ‘e.g.’ when you are going to provide representative examples of something but NOT all of the components. As with ‘i.e.,’ ‘e.g.’ is followed by a comma in the US.

In our study, particular interest  was paid to specific items and related clusters associated with stress (e.g., academic stress, community violence, bullying).

The increase in utilization and spending we observed is consistent with the patterns observed for disruptive innovations in other industries (e.g., personal computer as an alternative to mainframe computers).

We wanted to be sure that only upbeat music (e.g., rock, pop, hip hop) was played during the halftime show.

The most common error I see with respect to these abbreviations is confusing when to use ‘i.e.’ and when to use ‘e.g.’. If you remember that ‘i.e.’ stands for ‘that is,’ and ‘e.g.’ stands for ‘for example,’ you will never go wrong.

And the second most common error? That’s easy. It is using ‘etc.’ with ‘e.g.’

‘Etc.’ is from the Latin et cetera which means ‘and the rest’ or ‘and the others.’ When you use ‘e.g.’ you are saying ‘for example,’ and thus, the reader won’t expect a comprehensive list, just a sampling, so using ‘etc.’ is unnecessary, even redundant. While you may need to use ‘etc.’ with ‘i.e.’ if you can not list every item that you are talking about (NOTE: This practice is not preferred, but it is acceptable in some instances), you NEVER use ‘etc.’ with ‘e.g.’

None of these abbreviations should be italicized; they are considered standard English, now.

I have one more thing to tell you about ‘i.e.’ and ‘e.g.,’ and I am actually hesitant to bring it up at all. But in the spirit of full disclosure, here goes: While most of the style guides concur that there should be a comma following the abbreviations, one style guide—sadly, it’s the AMA Manual of Style—has a very strange convention. According to the AMA Manual of Style, the comma is necessary, but they exclude the periods. According to the Manual:

 JAMA and the Archives Journals do not use periods with honorifics (courtesy titles), scientific terms, and abbreviations (exceptions: No. for “number” and St. when it is part of a person’s name, although no period is used with St in a city name, eg, St Louis, Missouri)

So, in the AMA world, you would refer to Dr Jones and Mrs Smith, and see in the quote above how they used the ‘e.g.’? They keep the comma but lose the periods (ie, too)! Yikes! What is this world coming to? They also don’t use periods in company names and abbreviations (e.g., Inc, Ltd) and in addresses (e.g., St, Ave, Rd, N, S, E, W).

My advice to you is this. Ignore AMA style, here. If they want to take out the period in Dr or ie or eg (and they do), the typesetters at JAMA  or other AMA-style journals will take them out. I’m pretty sure that they are used to it. Most of the world uses the periods, and readers would look askance if you omitted them. I’d hate for you to adopt a habit that most of the world sees as wrong! It kills me to tell you to ignore AMA Style, but I really think we have to for the sake of good writing. And good writing is the bottom line.



  1. Madi said,

    Hi, thanks for the latest update. Could you please shine some light on what the past tense of shine is? When writing it, I am quite sure that it is ‘shined’, but I am tempted to say ‘shone’.

    • dlseltzer said,

      Hi. Check out last week’s column. It’s shined when it has an object (transitive). (He shined the silverware.) It’s shone when there is no object. The sun shone.

  2. qanknit said,

    Ah! You have answered my unasked question! The post office US) seems to be following the AMA ‘rules’ as to the removal of periods. It also insists that every letter in the address be capitalized. They forgot how to unlock the Caps Lock key? Or is that another AMA rule?

    • dlseltzer said,

      No, AMA doesn’t use all caps. That’s just a post office quirk.

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