Academic Writing tips generalising/ hedging practice

What is wrong with the statements about academic writing in English below?

Abbreviations are informal

Avoid phrasal verbs

Avoid semicolons

Avoid strong language

Contractions are too informal

Don’t repeat words

It’s impossible to avoid bias

Long titles are better than short titles

Only start a new paragraph when you start a new topic

Quoting directly is better than paraphrasing

Single countable nouns need a determiner

State your conclusions in your introduction.

The more references the better

Use as many linking expressions as possible

Use passives to avoid “I”, “you”, etc

Using “one” is pretentious

Using “the author” is pretentious

You have to be consistent with the use of British and American English

Never make generalisations.

Change any which you think aren’t 100% accurate. You can change the sentences as much as you like as long as the topic remains the same.

What language could you use to make those kinds of changes? Compare your ideas with those below the fold.



In general,…

To generalise somewhat/ To make a somewhat sweeping statement/ This is a bit of an overgeneralisation, but/ If we ignore… (for a moment)/ To simplify

(almost) all/ the (vast) majority/ most/ (very) many/ much/ quite a lot/ some/ a few

a huge/ (very/ fairly) large/ good/ substantial/ considerable/ (very) limited number/ amount of

definitely/ almost certainly/ probably/ likely/ perhaps/ maybe/ possibly/ potentially/

must/ may/ might/ could

almost always/ usually/ generally/ typically/ most of the time/ often/ sometimes/ occasionally/ rarely/ seldom/ very rarely/ almost never

While it’s generally true that…/ Although it’s often the case that…

Despite/ In spite of

apart from/ except for

,unless…/ if

but there are also exceptions, such as…/ but it is also the case that…

but it depends on…

approximately/ more or less/ around

(just) under/ fewer than/ less than

Brainstorm as many similar expressions as you can into each of the gaps below, putting them in order.



definitely not






no/ none

a huge number/ amount


a tiny number/ amount

Brainstorm other phrases that could go in either of the gaps below.

________Despite it being ___________ generally true that…

It is generally true that…, ___________ but it depends on ________________________

Compare your answers with those in the Suggested Language box on the previous page.


PDF version for easy saving and printing: academic-writing-hedging

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