Respective?

I’m in Savannah on vacation, and I wasn’t planning to do any blogging this week – but I couldn’t resist commenting on a sentence from USA Today (April 13, 1B, “Email addresses can be weapons”).

The article is about the Epsilon data theft that compromised email addresses belonging to customers from Chase Bank, Verizon, Hilton, and Target. Here’s the sentence:

“Those companies, in turn, have been sending e-mail warnings to their respective customers.”

Why is that word “respective” there? Does anybody really think that Verizon, say, would be writing to Target’s customers? Doesn’t Verizon have problems enough of its own?

“Respective” is almost always unnecessary – and it’s a pompous, old-fashioned word. Avoid it like the plague.

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