I am proud to be able to present Ben Teague‘s checklist on ‘Was this text translated from the German?’ – all the way from Athens (that’s Athens, Georgia). I will comment on this separately.
(1) Already misused in sentences like
*Already in 1969 human beings visited the Moon
. . . or, even worse,
*Human beings visited the moon already in 1969
This often comes from language such as bereits 1969. Better:
Human beings visited the Moon as early as 1969 (virtually the same meaning)
As early as 1969, human beings visited the Moon (nearly the same meaning, time stressed)
By 1969 human beings had visited the Moon (the meaning now a little distorted)
By 1969 human beings had already visited the Moon (with the schon item restored, but note that already implies a link to a further part of the discourse)
(2) Beziehungsweise. Several things can go wrong in the translation:
bq. (2a) Use of respectively as a conjunction. It isn’t one.
(2b) Use of the blatantly un-English abbreviation resp.
(2c) Rendering of beziehungsweise (bzw.) as *or in one of the cases when it doesn’t really mean that.
(2d) Use of respectively when it doesnt accomplish anything.
(2e) Attempts to make respectively carry too much freight.
Cases (a) and (b) call for just one remark: Dont ever make these errors.
Case (c) is deeper and more difficult. German writers use beziehungsweise to keep lists straight:
Die Wahrscheinlichkeit eines Sturms bzw. einer Flut ist hoch. The probability of a storm or (a) flood is high.
In this instance bzw. means exactly or. But the word also expresses distribution:
Die Feder bzw. Bleistifte sind blau bzw. schwarz. The pens and pencils are blue and black, respectively. (I.e., pens are blue and pencils are black.)
Avoid the almost meaningless
*The pens or pencils are blue or black
. . . and the even worse
*The pens and pencils are blue and black.
Case (d) is sometimes induced by special uses of bzw., for example:
Die Federn sind blau bzw. schwarz. The pens are blue or black.
The German sentence says that some pens are blue and some are black, not that each pen is blue and black. In my opinion,
*The pens are blue or (and) black, respectively
is usually a mistranslation because it contains the nonfunctioning last word.
Case (e) comes about because beziehungsweise in German is a good deal stronger than respectively. You can for example make multiply parallel structures such as
Die Feder bzw. Bleistifte bzw. Kugelschreiber sind aus Gänsekielen gefertigt bzw. stammen aus China bzw. enthalten Spiralfeder.
(It is barbaric, but technically not incorrect.) Consider
*The pens or pencils or ballpoints, respectively, are made from goose quills or (and) come from China or (and) contain coil springs.
Its silly to follow German rules of distribution in English. The sentence expresses three thoughts and should be divided:
The pens are made from goose quills; the pencils come from China; the ballpoints contain coil springs.
(3) German-style hyphenation in compounds. Expressions like
Emergency off button
Home page (or homepage)
Safety edge switch
with no hyphens. If we have definite rules in this area, they are complicated. Native usage is the best guide. The next-best is that English most commonly builds short strings of nouns in open fashion, neither merged (*offbutton) nor hyphenated (*off-button). When an open compound functions as an adjective, however, it gets hyphens: