What are the different types of hedging language?
This is the second of three chapters about Hedging Language. To complete this reader, read each chapter carefully and then unlock and complete our materials to check your understanding.
– Introduce both general and academic hedging language
– Provide examples of academic and general hedging language
– Discuss the concept of using hedging for degrees of certainty
Having discussed what hedging language is as well as its importance and purpose in Chapter 1, the next step to mastering this type of language is to understand, recognise and use the many different types of hedging language available. Such language can be more broadly categorised into two ways: general and academic.
General Hedging Language
Otherwise known as vague expressions, hedging language is often used by the general public to make something sound less factual, to generalise about groups or categories, or to indicate when the name of something is unknown. Informal words and phrases such as ‘about’, ‘sort of’, ‘stuff’ and ‘thing’ may be used in this type of hedging, as is shown in the examples below.
– There were about 100 students in the lecture.
– He’s sort of right about that, but he’s not quite there.
– What’s that stuff that a man uses to help shave his beard off?
– Do you have that thing I gave you earlier? You know, the thingy?
Clearly, due to its informality, such language should not be used in an academic context – unless perhaps in a relaxed seminar discussion.
Academic Hedging Language
Being more formal in nature, academic hedging language, as was explained in Chapter 1, is used to provide caution, politeness and indirectness to ideas and claims. As will be discussed in more detail in Chapter 3, there are nine different types of academic hedging language for a student to choose from when writing an academic assignment. We’ve provided an example of each in the table below:
Degrees of Certainty
When using hedging language, it’s also worth remembering that such language can provide many different degrees of certainty. By placing particular hedging language onto a spectrum, with cautious words at one end and confident at the other, we can see how this language may provide variation in levels of certainty:
Clearly, with very cautious words such as ‘perhaps’ at one end and very confident words such as ‘definitely’ at the other, a writer or speaker is able to vary their hedging language to alter the confidence of their claim or argument. Such extremely confident words as ‘definitely’, ‘certainly’ and ‘firmly’ are in fact called boosters. These overly confident words should only be used very sparingly in academic writing.
It’s also worth noting here that the degree of certainty of hedging language may also be pre-modified with particular adjectives, usually to further strengthen such language. Words such as ‘very’ or ‘quite’ may be added to a phrase such as ‘it’s quite possible that’ or ‘it’s highly likely that’ to make those phrases more confident. Additionally, one final aspect that’s also worth discussing is that it’s important for an academic not to overuse hedging language. Carefully consider whether a fact or statement needs any such language at all, and if it does then determine how much hedging language to add. Both of the examples below, for instance, contain unnecessary or over-the-top levels of hedging language
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