Writing Skills: Hedge Words

There is a lot of research on the persuasiveness, or otherwise, of so-called "hedge words" — words that qualify a statement or make you sound equivocal (such as "possibly" and "probably"). Most research I have read recommends eliminating hedge words, where you can. More nuanced research suggests that qualified statements can be more persuasive than unqualified statements, depending on your audience. For example, if your reader knows and is interested in your subject, then qualified statements may persuade them more than unqualified statements; however, for people who do not know your subject or who are uninterested or who are too busy to really pay attention, then hedge words can deplete the strength and meaning of your message. Here is a list of hedge words to think carefully about.


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Think about whether the following words and phrases add much to your message and whether they make your speech and writing more persuasive or less persuasive. Take care: sometimes, you must be equivocal — for example, when naming an "alleged" murderer! When used sparingly, qualified statements temper your argument and can make you sound more nuanced, subtle, and understated, and therefore more persuasive. However, don't overdo hedge words (eg, "seems to suggest", "may appear as rather likely"). Too many hedge words deplete your argument of its strength and meaning.

List of Hedge Words And Phrases

  • about
  • apparently
  • appear
  • around
  • basically
  • can
  • could
  • effectively
  • evidently
  • fairly
  • generally
  • hopefully
  • in general
  • kind of
  • largely
  • likely
  • mainly
  • may
  • maybe
  • more or less
  • mostly
  • overall
  • perhaps
  • presumably
  • pretty (eg, pretty strong, pretty weak)
  • probably
  • quite clearly
  • quite
  • rather
  • really quite
  • really
  • seem
  • somewhat
  • sort of
  • supposedly

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Last modified on Saturday, 28 November 2015 08:44
English Language Skills (Troy)

English Language Skills (Troy)

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