What Is Hedging? (And No, We’re Not Talking about the Shrubs in Your Backyard)

Hedging is something that often comes up in most of our daily writing—e-mails, reports, and even simple chat messages. Go ahead and open your inbox right now. Chances are, you’re also guilty of committing this act. But, what the heck is hedging anyway?

What Is Hedging?

In language, a hedge (noun) refers to cautious or vague statements. To hedge (verb) means avoiding direct answers to questions and making unclear statements. Below are a few examples of hedge words and phrases:


  • Perhaps
  • Likely
  • Actually
  • Practically
  • Rather

Introductory phrases

  • I think…
  • It appears that…
  • We can argue…
  • It is likely to be the case…
  • We can conclude that…

Is Hedging Bad?

Hedging is common in academic writing wherein it is used as a device to express uncertainty and show politeness and indirectness. For example, it can be used by an author to acknowledge that their claim may have flaws:

It may be inferred that the issue of low birth rate stems from the changed priorities of the males and females in their early 20s to 30s.

While it is useful in such a case, hedging can hinder effective communication. Consider the following:

It would be great if we can actually have a meeting regarding the new project guidelines tomorrow, probably in the afternoon.

Does this mean that we will have a meeting tomorrow or not? Take a look at this rewritten, hedge-free version:

Let’s have a meeting regarding the new project guidelines tomorrow in the afternoon.

The second version sounds more confident and authoritative. It’s clear, direct, and on point—all the marks of effective communication. In business settings in particular, it’s important to make sure that you get the message across to avoid mistakes and miscommunication.

Hedging is not a bad practice—provided you know when and how to use it correctly. When you need to soften your words and qualify claims, by all means, use hedge words. However, when you need to be direct, do away with hedging and keep your sentences clear and simple. The best way to make sure that you’re using—or not using—hedge words is to reread and edit your work. Even a simple e-mail will benefit if you take the time to reread it before you hit the send button.

Still unsure? Lexcode’s team of professional editors is here to help! With our professional editing services, we’ll help you eliminate (or add!) these pesky hedge words and phrases.