Using ‘respectively’

December 13, 2016

Dr. Kathryn Sobek, Filipodia Editor

 

The word ‘respectively’ is an adverb used to enumerate two or more items that refer to a previous statement. The use of this word requires parallelism, meaning each item must correspond to one separate item in the previous statement.

 

For example:

 

Correct: The values of  ‘x’ and ‘y’ were 20.3 and 16.8, respectively. (It is clear that x = 20.3 and y = 16.8)

Incorrect: The two values were 20.3 and 16.8, respectively. (There is ambiguity as to what the values correspond to).

 

Correct: Expression of caspase-8, caspase-9, and Bcl-2 were measured 30 minutes, 45 minutes and 60 minutes after the treatment, respectively.

Incorrect: The three proteins were measured 30 minutes, 45 minutes, and 60 minutes after the treatment, respectively.

 

There are also instances where the use of respectively is not required.

 

For example:

 

Incorrect: The value of ‘x’ was 20.3, and the value of ‘y’ was 16.8, respectively.  (Respectively is unnecessary because the value is already stated immediately after the parameter.)

Correct: The value of ‘x’ was 20.3, and the value of ‘y’ was 16.8.

 

Incorrect: Expression of p53 was identified in breast cancer and prostate cancer, respectively.

Correct: Expression of p53 was identified in both breast cancer and prostate cancer.

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