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When you start a sentence with acronyms such as i.e., e.g., or similar, how do you capitalize them? "I.e., ...", or " I.E., ..."? Thanks.

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    You avoid the problem by using a semicolon (or a comma, if the syntax allows) rather than a full stop after the preceding clause. As a general rule of thumb, don't start sentences with abbreviations for Latin phrases. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 15 '15 at 14:00
  • Most of them don't start a new idea in any case, but are continuations of the prior thought. – Tᴚoɯɐuo May 15 '15 at 14:06
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    A similar question was asked here on ELL. – Ben Kovitz May 15 '15 at 14:42
  • By and large, if you're working in a register where i.e. or e.g. would be appropriate you probably shouldn't be using them at the beginning of a sentence. It's not strictly ungrammatical, but it's distinctly awkward. --Moreover, some academic style manuals now explicitly deprecate these Latinisms; use "that is" or "for example" instead. – StoneyB May 15 '15 at 16:56
  • Here's a blog post that uses "I.e" at the start of a sentence to good rhetorical effect. – Ben Kovitz Jun 21 '16 at 22:27
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At the beginning of a sentence, capitalize the first letter:

E.g., a sentence like this one.

Inside a sentence, both letters go in lower case:

Both letters go in lower case, i.e., neither is capitalized.

Capitalization for Latin abbreviations works the same as if you were to spell out the words (which no one ever does). They're not acronyms. The second letter stands for the second word of the phrase (exempli gratia or id est), so you don't capitalize it, just as you don't normally capitalize the second word of a sentence.

If you did spell out the words, here's how the sentences would look:

Exempli gratia, a sentence like this one.

Both letters go in lower case, id est, neither is capitalized.

The principle is probably clearer if you see it with a Latin abbreviation where a word is abbreviated with more than one letter. Op. cit., which means "in the work (previously) cited" (opere citato), naturally gets only the O capitalized at the start of a sentence, since we normally capitalize only the first letter of the first word of a sentence.

More about "Latin in English" is here, including an explanation of what the abbreviations stand for.

  • Not even a comment on avoiding this in the first place? – DCShannon May 16 '15 at 3:52
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    @DCShannon Nah, I figure that if someone asks you how to do something, it's merely annoying to scold them against doing it. Also, whether and exactly when to put these at the beginning of a sentence is a messy matter best left to taste and context; trying to explain it here would risk making it sound like there's a rule or custom comparable to what's in the answer. – Ben Kovitz May 17 '15 at 1:34
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If you find that you have to start your sentence with such an abbreviation, then capitalize the first letter, as Ben explains in his answer.

However, it's usually best to avoid starting a sentence with such an abbreviation. This should not be construed as any sort of a 'rule', simply a stylistic guideline. Regardless of whether you capitalize it correctly or not, it's going to look odd.

As TRomano suggested in comments,

You avoid the problem by using a semicolon (or a comma, if the syntax allows) rather than a full stop after the preceding clause. As a general rule of thumb, don't start sentences with abbreviations for Latin phrases. Most of them don't start a new idea in any case, but are continuations of the prior thought.

StoneyB goes so far as to suggest that

By and large, if you're working in a register where i.e. or e.g. would be appropriate you probably shouldn't be using them at the beginning of a sentence. It's not strictly ungrammatical, but it's distinctly awkward. Moreover, some academic style manuals now explicitly deprecate these Latinisms; use "that is" or "for example" instead.

I've found that a lot of people don't know what these letters stand for, and often mix them up. Using English phrases instead is not bad advice, especially at the start of a sentence.

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You capitalize the first initial, e.g.

E.g., I hate rum.

and

I.e., I hate all rum.

The Chicago Manual of Style says not to italicize common Latin abbreviations (and words).

7.53 Roman for Latin words and abbreviations

Commonly used Latin words and abbreviations should not be italicized.

ibid.
et al.
ca.
passim

For example, see the unitalicized uses of e.g. in Ulysses, Vol. 1, by James Joyce; here for i.e.

There is no rational reason not to start a sentence with e.g. or i.e., just as there is no rational reason not to start a sentence with and.

And note, the abbreviations are italicized in the above sentence, along with and, because I am talking about them. I.e., I am not using them in their normal manner.

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    There are at least three rational reasons not to start a sentence with those abbreviations: It looks weird to a lot of people. It makes the connection with the previous thought that is being alluded to less clear. It is less recognizable - I was seriously thrown off reading your last paragraph, as the capital 'I' in 'i.e.' made my eye not immediately recognize the abbreviation, especially since it's in a sans serif typeface. – DCShannon May 19 '15 at 3:14
  • @DCShannon An example of one of those messy "it depends" factors: maybe if pazzo had italicized "I.e." in the final sentence, it would have been easier to read. :) – Ben Kovitz May 19 '15 at 3:49
  • @BenKovitz I'm not saying there's any kind of a rule not to start a sentence with such things, and I hope no one thinks I am. I'm just saying that it could be clearer, and there are real reasons for this. – DCShannon May 19 '15 at 4:43
  • @DCShannon My apologies for my totally off-target comment yesterday! Everything you've said has been abundantly clear that you're not pronouncing "rules", just pointing out commonly occurring factors to consider, one case at a time—the only sane approach approach to these messy matters of taste and context. – Ben Kovitz May 19 '15 at 11:22

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