For instance, this sentence:

Avoid the "Reply All" option.

Which of the following paragraphs better describes the above sentence?

Paragraph 1: Don't use the "Reply All" option.

Paragraph 2: As a general rule, don't use the "Reply All" option. However, there exist certain scenarios where it's acceptable to use this option.

Is the second paragraph a proper interpretation of the sentence?

  • 1
    "Generally, avoid using..." communicates the sentiment most clearly, I think. – Jeremy Feb 6 '12 at 9:02

When someone says, "Avoid doing X;" I think he means that you should only do X under fairly exceptional circumstances. Paragraph 2 is correct, or you would be told never to use "Reply All."

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1 and 2 mean the same thing. Unqualified, being told not to do something doesn't mean one should never do it, it means not to do it within the implied context of the command or rule.

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@David's interpretation is somewhat unconventional, but I must agree with him. Unless an action is explicitly forbidden, without exception, it is reasonable to assume that certain exceptions may apply in extenuating circumstances.

Take, for example, the 10 Commandments, one of which is "Thou Shalt not Kill". Yet, the same lawgiver specifically authorizes, even commands killing in certain circumstances.

This is why in English we say, "Never say never".

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