In our writing, we often indicate how confident we are about the claims we make. If we are doubtful that something is true, we may use words like perhaps or possibly. If we’re confident, we may say that something is clearly or obviously true. These words are called hedges and boosters. They affect the tone of our writing, and good writers use them effectively.
To hedge means to waffle on an issue, to avoid committing oneself. Originally, the term referred to literally hiding in a bush or hedge. These days, hedging simply means expressing some feeling of doubt or hesitancy.
Here is a list of words that are considered hedges:
Examples: Perhaps, maybe, admittedly, might, possibly, likely, probably, predominantly, presumably, so to speak, seems, appears, may, think, to some extent, suggests, sometimes, often, around, roughly, fairly, usually, etc.
Observe the difference in tone when we use hedging:
No hedging: We vandalized school property.
With hedging: It’s possible that we may have vandalized school property.
In this example, hedging is merely a strategy for evasion. Indeed, if you’re not careful, hedging can hurt your writing. It’s easy to come across as timid and lacking in confidence. Hedging can also clutter up your sentences.
Yet, hedging has its benefits. Hedges suggest that the writer is careful, nuanced, and keen to avoid generalizations. A text that contains hedging is an open text, a text that invites debate and further research.
If hedges express doubt, boosters demonstrate confidence.
Here are some examples of common boosting words:
Examples: certainly, indeed, always, undoubtedly, in fact, clearly, actually, obviously, know, prove, conclusively, definitely, evidently.
The danger with boosters is that they can make you seem cocky and pompous. However, if you use them sparingly they can convey the right amount of self-assurance. The selective use of boosters will convince your reader that you know your stuff and are an expert in your field.