Resumptive and Summative Modifiers

Introduction

In this lesson, we review a couple of great ways to extend a sentence. With both the basic idea is that we repeat a word or idea and then add some extra information about it in a final phrase or clause.

Resumptive Modifiers

To create a resumptive modifier, repeat a word from the main clause (usually one near the end), and then use this word as the basis for a final phrase or clause:

The orchestra gave a beautiful performance, a performance to commemorate their late conductor, James Crotchet.

My friend really hates people who only see black and white, who think in terms of absolutes.

You can see that with a resumptive modifier the sentence resumes, or starts up again after a pause.

Summative Modifiers

Summative modifiers also extend the sentence, but in this case we don’t repeat a word, but use a new word to summarize what came before:

Connor McDavid has signed a monster deal with the Edmonton Oilers, a move that could set the tone for future contract negotiations.

Thomas is writing a dissertation on the history of the hemidemisemiquaver, a note greatly neglected by music historians.

Both summative and resumptive modifiers often use a clause that starts with that (as in the Connor McDavid example).

Conclusion

Summative and resumptive modifiers create a great sense of rhythm, and are in fact a staple of public oratory. In writing you can set them off with a variety of punctuation marks: while a comma is the default option, colons and dashes are common too. So try experiment with these devices in your own writing, and show that you always have something more to say!

Hedges and Boosters

Introduction

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.

Hedging

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.

Boosting

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.