What is the TONE of a text? It’s the kind of emotion the writer conveys. In an academic essay, the tone must be believable, balanced and sensible.
The writer of an academic essay should not sound overconfident about his/her claims. To accomplish this, academic writers often resort to formal hedging markers when they present new ideas. This is how they can protect themselves from sounding too assertive.
“In written text, hedging represents the employment of lexical and syntactical means of decreasing the writer’s responsibility for the extent and the truth-value of propositions and claims, displaying hesitation, uncertainty, indirectness and/or politeness to reduce the imposition on the reader. (…) In Anglo-American academic prose, hedges are considered to be requisite with the general purpose of projecting ‘honesty, modesty, proper caution’ and diplomacy.” (Hinkel, 2005)
In other words, hedging markers are words or phrases that help soften a claim or statement, to reduce its impact. The objective of an academic writer is to inform and even persuade the reader, not to sound like a know-it-all.
Look at these examples:
Small amounts of caffeine are beneficial to a person’s health.
It appears that small amounts of caffeine are beneficial to a person’s health.
Small amounts of caffeine may bebeneficial to a person’s health.
The second and third statements use hedging markers, and they sound carefuland sensible, since there is always a possibility that the assertion is not true. This may invite readers to question it and even conduct further research to engage in academic dialogue.