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Imagine somebody gives me some instructions I need to follow when reading some pages, and those instructions tell me what I have to do with those pages, and those instructions are the following.

  • Ignore the line starting with title
  • If there is a line starting with version, check the value after version
    • If that value starts with 1, put the page on your right
    • If that value is 3, put that page on your left
    • For other values, write error on the page and put it on your left

Does ignore imply the line starting with title must be present on the page, or does it mean I shouldn't pay attention to the fact a line starting with title doesn't exist?

I am asking because a person seems to interpret the first instruction as it implies the "title" line must be present on the page.

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"Ignore" means "disregard intentionally." (from dictionary) "Ignore" doesn't imply that a line starting with "Title" must exist.

But the sentence says "the line". This implies that the person who wrote the instructions thinks that you will know which line starts with "title", so the person who wrote the instructions thinks that there is a line starting with "title" on the page.

And you should ignore that line.

The writer could have written "Ignore any line starting with 'title'". In that case there could be zero or more such lines.

The instructions don't say what to do if there is no line starting with "title", they just tacitly assume that one exists.

My interpretation would be that you should also ignore the absence of a line starting with "Title". I'd assume that the instruction means "Don't use the number on a line starting with title, only use the number on a line starting with version." So a page that has no title, and a line "Version 3.19" goes on the left. A page that has a "Title 3.19" and a "Version 1.01" goes on the right.

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  • I guess that person used ignore the "title" line to mean ignore the value given in the "title" line is [expected value], but as you pointed out those sentences aren't equivalent. Thank you! The instructions are for handling pages where the title isn't necessary the expected one, for example because the person who wrote that page made a typo in the title or forgot to write a title line, where a typo in the title or a missing title are considered errors.
    – apaderno
    Aug 31 '21 at 11:59
  • To make it clearer why I asked the question, if in Italian I would say Ignore the policemen. or Ignore any policeman. I would get There aren't policemen. as reply, in the case there aren't policemen, as if my sentence implied there are policemen. I was wondering if ignore the "title" line should be understood in the same way.
    – apaderno
    Aug 31 '21 at 12:14
  • Well that is a rather different context. If somebody is standing next to you and says "ignore any policemen" where there aren't any I would be very confused. But what if you are reading a travel guide, and it says "Ignore any policemen". Well that is fine. The guide doesn't know if there are any policemen or not. That is the nature of written instructions. However "Ignore xxx" in a written document doesn't imply that xxx must exist.
    – James K
    Aug 31 '21 at 23:28

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