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There is a list of guidelines that looks like

To ..., follow these guidelines:

  1. ...
  2. ...
  3. ...

Is it correct, in regard of this list, to treat "consider" in the beginning of a sentence as a possible replacement of "when appropriate" (and the other way around). Here is what I mean:

Example 1

  • a) Consider using X.
  • b) When appropriate, use X.

Example 2

  • a) When specifying a personal name, consider placing the family name before the given name.
  • b) When appropriate, when specifying a personal name, place the family name before the given name.

From stylistic perspective, I prefer the "b" sentence in the 1st example and "a" in the second one.

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"Consider" is explicitly a suggestion, and "use when appropriate" is explicitly a direction. While sometimes interchangeable, they are not the same.

Ask someone to "consider" doing something only if the choice to do it or not is completely up to them, and the outcome doesn't matter to you. (This can also be used very passive-aggressively, and it can be hard to make it come off as a sincere suggestion.)

"When appropriate, use X" simply states that they should do something, and expresses your trust in their ability to use it in the way that you want or expect, either according to their own judgement or a set of guidelines.

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  • "Consider doing something" is a direction to think about doing it. Normally you could expect the hearer to consider whether it was appropriate, and if so to do it. Some school students excepted! – Peter Feb 5 at 9:38
  • @Peter The key difference being that if you tell someone to consider something, and they consider it, decide it's appropriate, and choose not to do it, they've still done what you asked. – the-baby-is-you Feb 5 at 9:45
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The phrases technically have different meanings, but usually give the same advice. In the same category are where appropriate and if appropriate. I prefer both the "b" sentences, but using "if appropriate" for the second one, making it "If appropriate, when specifying a personal name, ..."

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  • Thanks, Peter. So it is OK to use "nested" when-s? – jsv Feb 5 at 8:17
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    @jsv I would prefer "If appropriate, when specifying..." – Peter Feb 5 at 9:19

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