We use hedges to soften what we say or write. Hedges are an important part of polite conversation. They make what we say less direct. The most common forms of hedging involve tense and aspect, modal expressions including modal verbs and adverbs, vague language such as sort of and kind of, and some verbs.
Tense and aspect
I wondered if I could have a word with you? (less direct and more polite than Could I have a word with you?)
The answer could be that the trees have some sort of disease. (less direct than The answer is that …)
Maybe we should have a word with him about it? (less direct than We should or we must have a word with him about it.)
This is possibly the best performance in the Olympics.
It’s sort of difficult to say. (less direct than It’s difficult to say)
Could you just post this letter for me?
Some verbs (such as feel, suppose, reckon) can be used to hedge personal statements, that is, to make personal statements less direct:
We feel he should let them decide whether to buy the flat. (less direct than He should let them decide …)
I reckon that’s the best answer to the problem. (less direct than That’s the best answer to the problem.)
Hedges in academic writing
We use certain types of hedging in writing, especially in academic writing, so that statements don’t seem to rely simply on personal opinion.
We often use structures with it in the passive such as it is argued that and it has been agreed that:
It has been generally agreed that these new video phone technologies will transform everyday life. (a more cautious and less personal statement than I agree that …)