Using Hedging Language in Your IELTS Writing
12 Jun 2014 admin
You may be asking what hedging is. In academic writing, claims are often expressed using cautious or tentative language. This is known as ‘hedging’. Look at these two sentences:
- Water shortages trigger conflict between nations.
- Water shortages may trigger conflict between nations.
The first sentence indicates a statement of fact. The second sentence, on the other hand, is more tentative, suggesting that conflict will occur in certain circumstances or under certain conditions, but not necessarily in every case.
As the example above illustrates, the use of hedging enables the writer to make claims that match the evidence available at the time of writing. In other words, hedging language helps to make statements as accurate and fair as possible. Since there is a wide range of hedging words and phrases, it is important to choose one that reflects the strength of the supporting evidence. The use of the word ‘probably’ in the sentence below indicates that the evidence is fairly strong. In the second sentence, the more tentative word ‘could’ was selected, indicating that the evidence is weak.
- The fire was probably caused by a fault in the engine temperature gauge.
- The fire could have been caused by a fault in the engine temperature gauge.
Paying due attention to accuracy and fairness helps to avoid, or at least reduce, criticism of your work. Viewed from this perspective, hedging has a persuasive function.
A wide range of words and phrases can be used in hedging:
- Modal auxiliary verbs:
can, could, may, might, should, would
- Other modal verbs:
appear, look, seem, tend
- Probability adjectives:
likely, possible, probable, unlikely
- Probability adverbs:
perhaps, possibly, probably, presumably
- Frequency adverbs:
generally, usually, often, occasionally, seldom
You can download a guide for IELTS hedging language here.
Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter. Also, take a look at the IELTS vocabulary study books here.