Thursday, January 20, 2005

With all due respect

When I don't have anything profound to deal with or important to link to, I'm going to nitpick sports writing to death. A great story starts with a single nit, or something like that.

Today, we're going to purge your copy of "respective" and "respectively." Simply because this is one of the most unnecessarily overused word forms in sports writing -- or any news writing, for that matter.

Consider this simplest of examples:

"Green Bay's Ahman Green and Pittsburgh Jerome's Bettis led their respective teams rushing."

I see that all the time. Tell me why?

Would any reader think Green led the Steelers and Bettis led the Packers? That they switched uniforms and played for the enemy?

Of course not; "respective" there is the appendix to the body of good writing.

But I'm more radical than this. I think it's never needed, or at least 99.9 percent of the time.

For example, I think "O'Neal and Wade led the Heat in scoring with 33 and 29 points, respectively" is completely unnecessary.

It's parallel construction, two names to two values. Nobody's expecting you to put the two names in one order and the values in another.

"O'Neal and Wade led the Heat in scoring with 33 and 29 points."

Again, respectively is unnecessary.

I maintain it and all its forms are helpful only once out of 1,000 times.

That's all I have for now. I'm going to finish up here and then eventually head for the bar -- respectively.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

i find the best way to do that is say something like O'Neal scored 32 points and Wade added 29 points. Or you can even go further, O'Neal scored 20 of his points in the fourth quarter and 15 from the foul line. It totally avoids any reason to use respectively.