Here’s a quick and easy way to write and speak more clearly: Don’t hedge unintentionally. For example, don’t unintentionally use kind of. Unintentional hedging diminishes, undermines or negates your message. Here are three quick examples:
Regarding Linda Ronstadt’s induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Ms. Ronstadt’s producer said:
“When certain people got in, before Linda, I was kind of outraged.” (Source)
Unintentional hedging is not surprising on Tumblr:
“IT'S KIND OF UNBEARABLE” (Source)But even the Washington Post, whose writers and editors presumably are grown up and literate, sometimes indulges in this nonsense:
“Everything today is kind of horrible, so here are some penguins dressed up as Santa Claus” (Source)If you think something is horrible, say “It’s horrible,” not “It’s kind of horrible.” If you don’t think something is horrible, don’t use the word horrible at all; use a word that says what you really mean to say. Saying what you really mean to say will create the impression that you are literate, not semi-literate.
Many people use more than one kind of or like per minute. If you hedge that frequently, even obtuse listeners are going to wake up and notice it. When they do, they will receive this unintended message from you: “I’m not really saying anything. I’m just thinking out loud, and I’m not even sure of the thoughts. So, don’t listen to me.” When I hear a public speaker do that, I stand up and walk out. Life is too short to be wasted on reading or listening to semi-literate slobs.
The Takeaway: Say what you mean. If you intend to hedge, hedge: “I’ll be there about four o’clock.” Otherwise, don’t hedge. Say what you mean, and you will earn more respect.