2

Both these source localities are on the banks of the Rhine, respectively, at 12 km and 20 km upstream from Bonn.

In the above sentence, is respectively needed, and if so, is it properly used?

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    Since you haven't named them, it's not appropriate to use "respectively" to link the sequence of the two distances upstream to that of the two sources. – FumbleFingers Nov 29 '14 at 17:00
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    Presuming they are named in a (hopefully the) preceding sentence, then yes, it's properly used, and reduces the ambiguity of which locality is located where on the Rhine. – Dan Bron Nov 29 '14 at 17:29
  • Given the topic, I have a suspicion that the sentence was written by a German native speaker, and respectively is a translation of "beziehungsweise" that has been placed incorrectly. – painfulenglish Nov 29 '14 at 17:32
  • But do you use at with upstream from something? Don't you use by? As in ...on the banks of the Rhine, upstream from Bonn, by 12 and 20 km respectively. If you use at I feel like using of Bonn. Not a native speaker here. I find respectively before focuses on the list whereas after focuses on ordering/matching the list to preceding references. Again, not a native speaker here. – user98955 Nov 29 '14 at 18:50
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    @Amphiteóth, while by...from works in your example, it seems more natural to me to say either of at 12 km and 20 km, respectively, upstream of Bonn or at 12 km and 20 km upstream of Bonn, respectively. When the upstream phrase precedes the 12 and 20 km phrase, either your by...from construction or the following might be used: “...on the banks of the Rhine, upstream of Bonn 12 and 20 km respectively”. – James Waldby - jwpat7 Nov 29 '14 at 20:42
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In the question as it stands, out of context, there is some merit to FumbleFingers' comment “it's not appropriate to use "respectively" to link the sequence of the two distances upstream to that of the two [unnamed] sources”. However, as you may observe in answers and comments at ELU question 34843, some sentences use respectively to indicate that things are separate. The need to so indicate does not depend on whether things are named. For example, consider the following two sentences about two treasures.

Treasures X and Y are on the banks of the Rhine, at 12 km and 20 km, respectively, upstream of Bonn.
Treasures X and Y are on the banks of the Rhine, at 12 km and 20 km upstream of Bonn.

The first form explicitly places one treasure 12 km upstream and the other 20 km upstream. The second form is ambiguous, if we suppose parts of a treasure may be at multiple locations. The same cases apply if “Treasures X and Y” is replaced by “The treasures”, without names.

The location of respectively in the sentence in the question is awkward and the comma after it does not help. Lots of readers would expect the list to precede respectively, and will be briefly taken aback by the awkward location of it in the example sentence. You can find more answers about locating respectively before a list in ELU question 197570.

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