Hedging expressions such as “may/might/could,’ possible/probable/unlikely, might seem like they make your writing more vague, but they actually make it more precise. It is harder to refute “It is possible that climate change will lead to catastrophe in the next twenty years” than “Climate change will lead to catastrophe in the next twenty years.” For this reason, hedging is often favored when making modest, precise claims in academic writing.

Some people think that the only purposes of academic writing are to state facts and to draw conclusions based on these facts. Whiles there is some truth to this, it is important that cautious language is used to it convey information in a sufficiently precise manner.

Things should be hedged in situations when you want to avoid the possibility of stating excessively broad or bold conclusions that are easy to disprove. Hedging also conveys deference to disciplinary norms and fits with conventions of style.

It is important to remember that the only information that should be hedged is that which the writer is unsure about. For example, you should not hedge information such as when and where specific events happened, if it is possible for you to do research that confirms the date and location of these events. It should be used to make sure the conclusions drawn from verifiable information are sufficiently precise and narrow.

To do hedging effectively, you will need to be able to rely on several points of grammar and vocabulary. There are certain words that are used to hedge such as “seem” or “suggest,” while the grammar of modal verbs/adjective/adverbs and adverbs of frequency are also used for this purpose.