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Your submission may have been published elsewhere.

Can this mean, "It is ok if it has been published elsewhere before"?

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Can you give us the context? Who speak what? What's the case? –  Maulik V Apr 8 at 9:54

2 Answers 2

up vote 7 down vote accepted

The answer is "yes," but your question is woefully short on context, so, unless one is familiar with research publications and conference proceedings, the meaning you suggest wouldn't necessarily be the first that comes to mind.

Let's say I'm holding the First International Conference on English Language Learning. I might issue a Call for Papers, which is a request for experts in the field to submit their research.

Some conferences only want new research. Other conferences are more lax, and they'll accept a paper that has been published elsewhere – that is, at another conference, or in a previously published journal.

For example, let's say StoneyB has recently published a paper called Understanding the Subject-Auxiliary Inversion at the second annual Conference on English Language Usage, held in December of 2013. Is he allowed to submit that same paper to present at my conference?

If my Call for Papers mentions:

Your submission may have been published elsewhere.

then he is free to submit the paper for consideration at my conference. However, if my Call for Papers stipulates:

Your submission may not have been published elsewhere.

then it would be an ethics violation for him to submit the previously-published paper to my conference under the guise of new research.

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Oh I see. I got it. Thanks. In terms of publication, it's clear. I understood it now. But now, I'll edit to make my point clear. I'm a content writer and this has happened with me in many cases. –  Maulik V Apr 8 at 10:01
+1 If the conference is being held somewhere interesting I might think about it. –  StoneyB Apr 8 at 11:55

I'm afraid, it does not mean that. I require context here - if possible who speaks what?

Your submission may have been published elsewhere - the speaker is not sure where it has been published or whether or not it's published.

On the other hand,

It is ok if it has been published elsewhere before? - sounds ambiguous. Is it a declarative question? If yes, it'll mean - Will you mind if this is already published?

In my career of content writing, this is the common problem I have faced while recruiting a writer or especially when someone comes with their article to be published on my blog.

I think this'll make my point clear. Imagine Jack has come to me asking whether his article can be published on my blog as my blog has great (real) human traffic over bot traffic. Now...

Ah, I'm impressed Jack. This article is brilliant. But I doubt I have read it, this may have been published elsewhere.
No. It's very much fresh. I wrote it last night.

Now directly, Jack asks me this...

Hello. This is my work. I want you to publish this on your heavy-traffic blog. But is it okay if it has been published elsewhere? In such case, you may pay me less.

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I'm afraid that, given the right context, this sentence can mean exactly what the speaker proposed it might mean. –  J.R. Apr 8 at 9:50
@J.R. But is that second one a declarative question? Who speaks what? You come to me and say 'is it okay if this is already published?' In scene 2: I ask you with doubt - I'm not sure about your work J.R. Your submission may have been published elsewhere. Give me the proof. Are you getting my point? –  Maulik V Apr 8 at 9:52
See my answer... –  J.R. Apr 8 at 9:58
I second J.R.'s opinion. The underlying issue of context is that "may" has two different meanings, either "permitted" or "possible". So, the sentence could mean either "Your submission is permitted to have been published elsewhere" or "It is possible that your submission was published elsewhere." –  BobRodes Apr 8 at 13:32
Yikes! I think you mean that your blog gets a lot of hits (or has a lot visitors, or generates a lot of web traffic). I don't think you mean that it has a lot of human traffic. –  J.R. Apr 8 at 17:22

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