Hedging

At university, you need to be able to express yourself in a ‘tentative’ way. This means that when you make claims about your own research or you interpret the ideas or research of others, you should do so in an unassertive way.

By using tentative language, you will sound more modest and leave yourself less open to attack by critical readers. You are also less likely to be embarrassed if your claims or interpretations of the facts are later shown to be wrong.

There are verbs and phrases to help you express yourself in a tentative way. This technique is called hedging.

Strategy Example Sentence
Modal verbs
may, might, can, could

There may be a correlation between the number of fatalities and the toxicity of the soil.
Modal nouns
probability, likelihood, tendency

There is a high probability that the price of minerals will drop as the stocks rise.
Adverbs
probably, possibly,perhaps

The failure was possibly caused by a malfunction in the electrical circuit.
Hedging verbs
implies ,indicates, seems (to show), supports (the view that)

The figures imply that global warming is a real phenomenon and not just a series of coincidences.


Click on the following link for a list of guidelines on how to achieve an academic tone in your writing:

http://www2.elc.polyu.edu.hk/CILL/eap/academicstyle.htm

 


Rewriting sentences (Intermediate)

Rewrite the sentence given in a more tentative way using the word in the box. You can change the grammar of your sentence but should not change the form of the word in the box.

  1. Clearly then, the best way to achieve fluency in a language is to pick it up subconsciously.

    EVIDENCE






  2. The overall standard of English in Hong Kong has clearly declined in recent years.

    SEEMS



    The overall standard of English in Hong Kong seems to have declined in recent years.


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  3. The air quality has definitely deteriorated.

    PROBABILITY



    There is a high/strong probability that the air quality has deteriorated.


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  4. Teachers who are strict get the best feedback.

    TEND



    Teachers who are strict tend to get the best feedback.


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  5. MBA holders get higher salaries.

    TENDENCY



    There is a tendency for MBA holders to get higher salaries.


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  6. Those who practise yoga do not suffer from back pain.

    RARELY



    Those who practise yoga rarely suffer from back pain.


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  7. 17th century towns were badly sanitised and full of hazards

    EVIDENCE



    Evidence shows that 17th century towns were badly sanitised and full of hazards.


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  8. Students who adopt a systematic approach to learning will achieve higher grades.

    LIKELIHOOD



    There is a likelihood that students who adopt a systematic approach to learning will achieve higher grades.


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  9. The winter months are always accompanied by plummeting temperatures.

    USUALLY



    The winter months are usually accompanied by plummeting temperatures.


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Gap fill (Elementary)


The tentative words/phrases have been erased from the following passage. Choose one word/phrase from the box below and put it in the appropriate space in the passage.


A. Identifying assertive language (Advanced)


Read the following extract from a medical report. It does not include any tentative language. Highlight any verbs which sound assertive. Then rewrite the parts you have underlined to make the writer’s claims less assertive and more tentative.

How to Remove the Highlights

  • Hold down the "x" key, and then click the highlighted text to remove it.
  • To remove all highlights, click the button below.

Evidence shows that environmental factors play a significant role in the development and course of bipolar disorder, and that individual psychosocial variables interact with genetic dispositions. Evidence proves that recent life events and interpersonal relationships contribute to the likelihood of onsets and recurrences of bipolar mood episodes, as they do for onsets and recurrences of unipolar depression. There have been repeated findings that between a third and a half of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder report traumatic/abusive experiences in childhood. The total number of reported stressful events in childhood is higher in those with an adult diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder compared to those without. These events stem from a harsh environment rather than from the child's own behavior.

Answer

Evidence shows that environmental factors play a significant role in the development and course of bipolar disorder, and that individual psychosocial variables interact with genetic dispositions. Evidence proves that recent life events and interpersonal relationships contribute to the likelihood of onsets and recurrences of bipolar mood episodes, as they do for onsets and recurrences of unipolar depression. There have been repeated findings that between a third and a half of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder report traumatic/abusive experiences in childhood. The total number of reported stressful events in childhood is higher in those with an adult diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder compared to those without. These events stem from a harsh environment rather than from the child's own behavior.


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B. Identifying assertive language (Advanced)


Now rewrite the parts you have highlighted to make the writer’s claims less assertive and more tentative. Compare your version with the suggested version.

Suggested Answer

Evidence indicates that environmental factors could play a significant role in the development and course of bipolar disorder, and that individual psychosocial variables could interact with genetic dispositions. Evidence indicates that recent life events and interpersonal relationships could contribute to the likelihood of onsets and recurrences of bipolar mood episodes, as they do for onsets and recurrences of unipolar depression. There have been repeated findings that between a third and a half of adults diagnosed with bipolar disorder report traumatic/abusive experiences in childhood. The total number of reported stressful events in childhood is apparently higher in those with an adult diagnosis of bipolar spectrum disorder compared to those without. These events seem to stem from a harsh environment rather than from the child's own behavior.


Hide answer.

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