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Latin words and abbreviations are becoming less common in academic writing; however, a number of important terms are still widely used in scientific writing and it is important to understand them and to use them correctly. These Latin abbreviations are often written in italics, but style guides and journals have their own house rules.

Most commonly used and confused
i.e. (Latin = id est) “that is, that is to say”
Data on sex determination suggest that this species has only two sexual genotypes i.e. female XX) and male(XY).
e.g. (Latin = exempli gratia) “for example”
Several of the plots (e.g., Plots 4 and 9) showed evidence of nutrient deficiency.
Note – don’t forget the full stop after each of these two abbreviations. A comma normally follows both abbreviations and then the specific items are given, but this can depend on the style guide or journal that you are following.
Other abbreviations you may find in your reading
ad hoc – “for this particular purpose”
The initial experimental method was very ad hoc as these variables had never before been tested in an ecologically valid setting.
ad libitum – “freely”
The pigs were housed in holding pens and food and water was available ad libitum.
a priori – “from cause to effect”
If we use a priori reasoning we would argue that the noise must have been loud because the animals were startled.
a posteriori – “from what comes after”
If we use a posteriori reasoning we would argue that the animals were startled because the noise was loud.
c. or ca. (Latin = circa) – “about”
The specimens dated from c. 1250.
cf. (Latin = confer) – “compare”
The data differed significantly between the experiments (cf. Table 6 and Table 7).
et al. (Latin = et alii) – “and others.”
The tag is used in citations to indicate that there are three or more authors. Note: you must not use et al. when then there are only two authors.
Princeton et al. (1998) established a link between intoxication and alcohol.
etc. (Latin = et cetera) – “and so forth“
A number of crops (maize, rice, corn, rye etc.) are planted in the area.
N.B. (Latin = nota bene) – “note well“ (this abbreviation is generally not italicised)
Table 5 below presents the data from the feeding trials. (N.B. non significant data have been excluded.)
per diem – “each day“
The light regime was 8 hours light and 16 hours dark per diem.
per se – “of/in itself“
The argument is not convincing per se but in context it could be persuasive.

(Note: the bold type in this handout is used for emphasis. Consult the appropriate style guide for your composition.)

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Cheers!
Brian M Logan
ThatActionGuy.com
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