When spell-check dictionaries hit word processors, proper spelling entered more people's daily consideration. Eventually, tools for automatically checking grammar changed people's daily experience of language yet again. This morning, I heard a report on KPCC about a new plugin called “Just Not Sorry” for Gmail that adds a third item that can now be marked on text: hedge words. For instructions on using the plugin, go Just Not Sorry - Google Chrome Plugin.
Hedge words are words that limit the all-inclusiveness of an otherwise absolute statement. For example, ''Dogs are awesome” makes a universal claim about all dogs, whereas “Mostdogs are awesome” speaks about canine tendencies without claiming that absolutely all dogs must fit the description.
Similarly, hedging can be used to make personal statements such as “I personally think all dogs are awesome, though I understand why people don't always feel the same way" or "Other dogs may be great, but only mine is awesome!"
Just like the use of the word hedge in landscaping, the proper use of hedge words can produce a very specific and detailed picture of your work.
In another sense, hedges function like caution tape at a construction site. They allow us to stay within areas where the data is more solid, which also keeps us out of dangerous territory where our conclusions might be hazardous or insufficient.
Though I described Google's plugin as marking hedge words, it was actually specifically designed for a sociological or behavioral purpose: to help women in business settings write in a more assertive manner. But it can be used by anyone. Given that APU's email is run by Google, you can add it to your account as well. Then, in one stage of your editing, you can copy and paste your essay text into the body of an email draft in order to use Google's plugin to detect (some) common hedges.
Beyond Google's plugin, though, the concept of hedging is also very useful in academic writing. Hedging is reserved for specific actions in academic texts (so we should avoid using it other ways).
Example hedge words:
by Daniel Roberts