Imagine I had a conversation with a boss of an organization about a rule which I suggested. We discussed advantages and disadvantages of this new rule and its impact on the organization. After the discussion I was just texted "The rule is out."

As a non-native speaker I fail to guess whether the meaning is rather "The rule has been published" or "The rule has been canceled".

  • This is very interesting and a tricky question. +1. rule is out also means it's getting implemented. nadco.org/news/165515/…
    – Maulik V
    May 30 '14 at 9:40
  • Yea, that's what confused me as well. The literal meaning is obvious, but is it rather like out of the game or like out and publicly available?
    – Erlik
    May 30 '14 at 9:47

As others have noted, the sentence is potentially ambiguous.

"The latest issue of the magazine is out" means that it has been published.

"Bob has been caught stealing from the company. He's out" means that he has been fired.

That is, "X is out" could mean "X is released to the outside world", or it could mean "X has been thrown out, i.e. rejected, discarded, or expelled".

In context, I think the boss probably means that the rule has been rejected. While we often say that something that one might distribute to the outside world, like a book or magazine, "is out" to mean it has been published, this meaning is rarely used in other context. If the boss has said, "The new rulebook is out", I'd take that to mean "published". But "The new rule is out" most likely means "rejected".

But people can be sloppy in their speech and writing, especially in emails, so on something like that it doesn't hurt to ask for clarification.


It's tricky! Something is out means it is made available as in the new edition is out AND it also means that it is now forbidden and not effective anymore as in Two strikes against NLRB and its Poster Rule is out

So, it depends on the context --If the rule is already existing, the rule is out means it's now not effective anymore. On the other hand, if the rule has been just discussed (I guess your case) but has been never implemented, the rule is out means it's now applied or is effective.

  • 3
    I think there are even more possible interpretations. People are often terse and linguistically sloppy in texts so I think "The rule is out" could easily be intended to convey "The (proposed) rule (which we recently discussed) is (ruled) out", meaning the boss has thought about it and decided to reject it at this time. Or you might be right and the boss has decided to go ahead and publish/apply the rule. It's ambiguous and if it's important it really needs to be clarified by asking the boss or by other means. May 30 '14 at 10:44
  • @NigelHarper ruled out is different than rule is out. You had to put many parenthesis to convey that rule is out means ruled out. It's actually simple -if rule is out is said for the existing rule, it's not effective anymore. If the rule is out said for something that is planned, it certainly means the rule is effective now on.
    – Maulik V
    May 30 '14 at 10:55
  • I've seen people be very sloppy when texting and need a lot of interpretation. From the question we know that the new rule was discussed but not that implementation was agreed or planned. The conversation could have left the status of the proposed new rule ambiguous or simply "under consideration", in which I don't think the text can be interpreted definitively. We simply don't have enough information to be sure. May 30 '14 at 11:18

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