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Earlier today on another site in the network, a user posted a question like this:

Is there a better way to use [x]?

There was a lot more to it, but the very first comment addressed this question directly and explicitly:

Why do you want to use [x] and not [y]? Also have you considered using [z]?

I took this latter sentence as:

You should consider using [z] instead of [x].

And proceeded to explain why [z] is not a valid alternative to [x].

The commenter vehemently insists that it should be clear and obvious that by starting the sentence with "also," I should know that they actually meant:

You should consider using [z] in addition to [x].

Can someone please explain from an English and grammar standpoint why having "also" at the beginning of the sentence - with or without a comma - does not associate with the thoughts in that sentence the way he/she thinks that it does?

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    You were misinformed. Your commenter may have meant you should consider using X and Z (i.e. - use X, but also use Z). But grammatically speaking, also would normally associate with the nearest suitable candidate word or phrase. In this case, the nearest credible candidate is the preceding question, so the most natural reading would be "As well as answering my first question (about using X rather than Y), I'd like to know if you've considered using Z". Apr 22, 2014 at 15:02
  • @FumbleFingers Thanks, I wasn't the asker, I'm actually a moderator on said site, and wanted to point out why the recommendation was not a good idea as written. I agree with your interpretation. They suggested that I obviously didn't understand what they meant, and proceeded to quote the definition of "also" from dictionary.com... Apr 22, 2014 at 15:08

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"Also" when used in the beginning of a phrase is usually used to introduce a new point. (In any case "also" usually refers to the previous clause)

"Also, have you considered using [z]?" - here "also" is just used to introduce a new topic and the meaning is equivalent to "Why do you want to use [x] and not [y]? Have you considered using [z]?" Whether 'z' was meant to be used in addition or as a replacement to 'x', or to 'y', is unspecified.

Alternatives:

"Have you also considered using [z]?" = you should consider using [z] - again, whether [z] is an addition or a replacement and to what, [x] or [y], is not known.

"Have you considered also using [z]?" = you should consider using [z] as well as [y] or [x] - whether [z] is an addition to [x] or [y] is still unknown but in this case it is not a replacement

The question of whether [z] would be in addition/replacement to [x] or [y] might be obvious from context but not from the grammar:

"Why do you want to drink water and not tea? Also, have you considered drinking coffee?" - is coffee in addition or as a replacement? And to what, tea or water?

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