Thursday, January 14, 2010

Hedging in academic writing

In several posts I have discussed hedging – especially unintentional hedging (1), (2), (3), (4). There’s nothing inherently wrong with hedging; the point is to do it intentionally or not at all.

But many of us make the mistake of hedging unintentionally. And we persist in it, because we are unaware of doing it. Therefore, we can make our writing clearer by learning to recognize the hedges we tend to use.

(Did you notice the hedge in that last sentence? That’s right: “tend to.”)

Here is an interesting web page about hedges frequently used in academe. The writing is clumsy but the web page includes a useful list for building or refreshing your awareness of various words and phrases used as hedges.

The web page is part of an instructional web site called “Using English for Academic Purposes: A Guide for Students in Higher Education.”

The Takeaway: Be aware of the various ways we hedge. Be especially aware of your favorite hedges, so that you won’t use them when you don’t intend to. Don’t feel awkward about this topic; many of the mistakes we make in writing and speaking are mistakes we make through lack of awareness – as opposed to lack of skills. Good ways to become more aware: (1) Read articles like the one I cited here. (2) Watch for unintentional hedges as you edit your own writing. (3) Spend ten minutes every day reading the work of good writers.

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