Language problems

We often see the same language problems over and over again in the manuscripts we receive. Here we discuss some of the more common problem categories.

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Respectively means in the order given, and it is used to match two or more sets of things in the correct order. It is never correct to use respectively when there is only one set of things. For example, we do not write, We fed the rabbits and squirrels, respectively, because only one set of things is involved.

Respectively is appropriate in this sentence, We fed the rabbits and squirrels cabbage leaves and acorns, respectively, because it prevents the reader from thinking that both foods were fed to both animals. As a general rule, however, it is better to avoid the use of respectively because it slows the reader. Thus, it would be better to write the sentence this way: We fed the rabbits cabbage leaves and the squirrels acorns.

‘Respectively’ may usually be omitted with advantage.” The Elements of Style, William Strunk, Jr. and E.B. White

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Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel, Pieter Bruegel the Elder (ca. 1525-1569)