Hedging and Assertiveness


When you are not sure about the correctness of your explanations, inferences, and/or implications, or there are more than several possible factors/variables, you can avoid being  direct and definite. This is called hedging.

The following are some ways of hedging:


  • The use of modals: may, might, can, could, would

[38] The low number of births on weekends could be because doctors do not work on weekends in the U.S.

[39] Investigation of the genetic alteration HNSCC may be useful in the development of both detection and treatment areas …

[40] X seems more accurate than Y

[41] … we could classify …

[42] The Heatmap can show us …

[43] … it would be a better idea to …


  • The use of verbs: seem, appear, suggest, indicate

[44] The reason for the high number of births on weekdays seems to be that many mothers schedule their c-section or induced labours on days when doctors are working.


  • The use of adjectives: possible, probable

[45] A possible reason for the trends seen in the box plot is that doctors do not work on weekends in the U.S.


  • The use of adverbs: possibly, probably

[46] This is possibly because doctors do not work on weekends in the U.S.


You are encouraged to use different word classes to hedge depending on your need. However, excessive hedging (i.e. in every sentence) may make your explanations less convincing.



You may want to be definite in some statements in the project report. Should can be used in the Discussion and Conclusion.

[47] … further experiments should combine the biological support and statistical efforts together …

About this website

This website has been developed as part of the UGC funded project, "Supporting and developing students’ English literacy practices in the disciplines” which is funded by the University Grants Committee’s Competitive Funding Scheme on Teaching and Learning for the 2012-2015 triennium. This inter-institutional literacy project aims to examine the provision of English literacy across three broad disciplines in Hong Kong tertiary institutes, namely Social Science, Science and Engineering in the participating institutions that include the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, City University of Hong Kong and the Hong Kong Baptist University. The website consists of a comprehensive support system to help provide a stimulating learning environment for students, content and language teachers. It also aims to help teachers become conversant with disciplinary genres and the linguistic and pedagogical resources suitable in a second language learning environment. The resources on this website will be open to and shared by all tertiary institutions in Hong Kong and beyond.