Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

Pain in the English offers proofreading services for short-form writing such as press releases, job applications, or marketing copy. 24 hour turnaround. Learn More

Comma before “respectively”?

When using the word respectively after listing items and corresponding relations do you use a comma before it? Example: The corresponding sewer projections for the monthly and yearly flows are 18 and 200, respectively.

Submit Your Comment



Sort by  OldestLatestRating

That's right.

cern July 27, 2011, 4:12pm

4 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

In the example you gave, it is not needed. Only use a comma if it provides clarity. The sentence is perfectly clear without the comma.

AnWulf August 2, 2011, 8:12pm

7 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

I think the example is incorrect. The word ‘respectively’ is essential to the sentence’s meaning and shouldn’t be separated by a comma.

sigurd August 3, 2011, 5:11am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

IMO "respectively" is not essential, but is used as a formality.

koam August 18, 2011, 6:26am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

I can't believe that everyone is missing the point on this one. The comma should be a semi-colon as the separation is being used for a list. The other basic reason that a semicolon is needed is that it is a longer break and gives the reader a chance to process the info given and then to anticipate the complicated relationship implied by the term "respectively".

BrockawayBaby August 18, 2011, 3:02pm

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Troll or joking?

koam August 18, 2011, 3:11pm

31 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Completely serious, koam. Was there something I missed. I always was taught that semicolons are used in lists. That's what I was trying to say.

I do have some problems with my brain and face because of birth defects, andd so I don't apreciate the "troll" comment.

BrockawayBaby August 18, 2011, 3:16pm

4 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

@Brock ... How would you even write that with a semicolon? No semicolon, colon, or comma needed in this example.

The only thing missing hasn't anything to do with layout of the sentence but some units would be nice ... 18 gal? 200 L?

AnWulf August 18, 2011, 6:05pm

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

In this case, ‘respectively’ is essential (no comma) as it denotes ‘in the order already mentioned’, with 18 being the monthly sewer projection and 200 being the yearly counterpart. Without ‘respectively’, it would be unclear which projection each figure refers to or if the monthly and yearly projections both are 18 and 200.

sigurd August 19, 2011, 2:35am

4 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

essential: nonsense
comma: optional

koam August 19, 2011, 5:19am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

koam: assertions
sigurd: supported assertions

BrockawayBaby August 19, 2011, 9:46am

5 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Do you really need "respectively"? It doesn't say anything that isn't already said; it's superfluous; the order is already mentioned. Delete it. Use "respectively" when it truly matters:

The corresponding sewer projections for the monthly and yearly flows are 18 and 200; they were 15 and 139, respectively, under previous projections.

GWU August 21, 2011, 11:18pm

9 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

GWU: correct.

koam August 22, 2011, 5:59am

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

Commas are used to sort of rope off dependent clauses that, although they add to the sentence, aren't imperative to the sentence. You can remove any phrase in a sentence that is corded off by commas and the sentence should still be complete and readable. Yes, I know there are a few other ways to use commas, don't get me wrong.

When you add the comma in front of "respectively," it makes sense because the sentence can stand alone without the addition of that word.

jacque September 17, 2011, 4:48pm

4 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

I was going to suggest to GWU that "respectively" is not superfluous in this case, but the earlier "corresponding" does make "respectively" a bit redundant. I would delete one or the other. It reminds me of sentences like "Also, I like pizza, as well"

porsche September 18, 2011, 6:46am

4 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

What on earth are you on about, Brock? Unless you're joking and I missed the humour. haha. There is no list there...

Jadeno February 6, 2012, 10:24am

3 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

"Troll" refers to "trolling" a method of fishing where a lure is dragged behind a boat moving thru the water to entice the fish to bite. An Internet "troll" is someone who tosses out comments with the intention of getting people to "bite" - That is saying things you don't mean just to see who will argue with you. It does (and never has) referred to a monster that lives under a bridge. There is no context of it's usage that would support that.

@Brock - I think you are trolling, which refers solely to your actions, and not your (supposed) physical appearance.

KWM November 23, 2012, 9:28pm

7 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

KWM are you serious? The fishing term is TRAWLING. Trolls were mythical norse beings that were wicked and mischievous. I do hope you're being ironic.

Respectively is required to show monthly is 18 and yearly is 200. Informally you can do without it but when comparing figures I think it should be included. Anwulf was correct, only use a comma if your sentence is getting unwieldy and it's required for clarity.

Bolle April 19, 2013, 8:43pm

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Sorry Bolle, but you are completely incorrect. "Trawling" is fishing by dragging a net along the sea bottom. "Trolling" is fishing by moving or dragging a fishing line with hook and/or bait.

porsche April 22, 2013, 10:55am

7 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

porsche et al are of course right about trolling being a type of fishing (although I confess I had to check a dictionary, as this seems to be more of a North American usage). Hence the meaning of to search for something - "politicians trolling for votes", as well as the newer meaning that KWM explained (also given at Oxford Online).

Incidentally, there is another British meaning of "troll" as a verb- "walk, stroll", probably from Polari, a kind of cant slang, some of whose word were made famous by Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick on "Round the Horne". "Look who's trolling in!"

Google site searches of both American and British newspapers would suggest that use of comma or no comma before "respectively" is fairly evenly divided.

One editing blog suggests it's context specific - "If the sentence is long and has many parameters, then use the comma for clarity. If not, the comma may be omitted". And he adds there is no difference between AmE and BrE here. Seems a sensible approach to me.

Warsaw Will April 22, 2013, 1:32pm

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

I stand corrected! I have never heard of trolling as a fishing term and I've worked with fishermen!

Bolle April 23, 2013, 12:20am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Basically trolling means diverting people's attention form the matter at hand to end up in an absurd discussion about trolling or sometimes about trawling!

Irnavash May 2, 2013, 9:37am

7 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

No no no!

The best way to convey this is as follows:
Sewer projection flow monthly: 18
Sewer projection flow yearly: 200



GKB September 11, 2013, 3:19am

1 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

One use of the comma in English is to indicate a slight pause; so there is a difference between "Roses are red and violets are blue" and "Roses are red, and violets are blue" - the latter has a slight pause before "and".
In the same way I would suggest the comma before "respectively" marks a slight pause.
One can in fact say it either way.
The only corollary to this is that in recent years commas have been dying out - I use them only where necessary these days to make the meaning clear or to clearly indicate a slight pause.

jayles September 11, 2013, 3:31am

2 votes    Permalink    Report Abuse

I'll bite.

BrockawayBaby, a semicolon should NOT be used, as there not a list. There are only two items. Even if there was a list, there would not be a semicolon before "respectively" anyway. "Respectively" is a comment on the order of "18" and "200," not part of the items. Your solution is grammatically incorrect.

brookworm November 6, 2015, 12:10am

0 vote    Permalink    Report Abuse

Yes     No