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A colleague recently pointed out that my usage of "resp." in English is incorrect, and is in fact an artefact of my native language. In Czech, it abbreviates "respektive" and is used to express

[Text claiming X, making assumption Y]. Unless it is the case that Y' --- then X' instead.

more compactly as

[Text claiming X, making assumption Y], resp. X' when Y'.

Is there some correct English alternative, ideally just as short? Some examples:

  • To address a woman in writing, use 'Ms.' . Unless you know she is married, then use 'Mrs.' instead. --> To address a woman in writing, use 'Ms.', resp. 'Mrs.' if you know she is married.
  • We define f(x) as 1/x for x different from 0 and set f(x)=7 for x=0. --> We define f(x) as 1/x (resp. 7 for x=0).
  • For odd n we define a(n) as 10. For even n we define a(n) as 666. --> For odd (resp. even) n we define a(n) as 10 (resp. 666).
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  • " respectively" comes at the end in English.
    – Lambie
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 18:16
  • It seems that the origin of the confusion was that in Czech the syntax is the same for both resp. and the literal 'translation' "respektive" of "respecitvely". But there is a different (also completely differently-sounding) word which is the actual translation of what "respectively" means. (Also, thanks for pointing out the "typo", let's pretend it never happened.) Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 20:16
  • It’s not clear what you’re asking about, nor what your colleague meant. “resp" in English would normally mean “respectively” but how could that be related to “[Text claiming X, making assumption Y]. Unless it is the case that Y' --- then X' instead.” Sorry but your “To address a woman in writing, use 'Ms.' . Unless you know she is married, then use 'Mrs.' instead. --> To address a woman in writing, use 'Ms.', resp. 'Mrs.' if you know she is married.” Is simply wrong, on several levels. You seem to be asking about concepts hugely different in Czech and English Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 21:00

2 Answers 2

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I am having to re-answer that your first example is not correct since resp. is not applicable to an everyday English sentence as we shall see.

resp is listed as a maths abbreviation below but is not endorsed with a reference which in such a precise field as math leads to potential confusion. as I am not a mathmagician I have to accept this is a valid example from Wikipedia however the title Jargon says it all.

resp.
(Respectively) A convention to shorten parallel expositions. "A (resp. B) [has some relationship to] X (resp. Y)" means that A [has some relationship to] X and also that B [has (the same) relationship to] Y. For example, squares (resp. triangles) have 4 sides (resp. 3 sides); or compact (resp. Lindelöf) spaces are ones where every open cover has a finite (resp. countable) open subcover."

a better explanation is

resp. the word "respectively" and the symbol "resp." have different syntaxes. The latter should probably be used exclusively in a mathematical context. It's not a general-purpose abbreviation of the former...
http://www.numericana.com/answer/usage.htm#resp

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  • The OP's last example was correct. Your version of it makes no sense.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 18:24
  • In English text, "e.g." means "for example". In the two texts where you've used "e.g.", it does not work, because your text following "e.g." cannot be inferred from the text before it.
    – Rosie F
    Commented Nov 19, 2018 at 18:26
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I think "or" works in all your examples:

To address a woman in writing, use "Ms"; or "Mrs" if you know she is married.

but I think I'd probably have turned it round, and put the default or usual case at the end:

To address a woman in writing, use "Mrs" if you know she is married, otherwise use "Ms".

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