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1/30/2019 Using cautious language - Study UK: Prepare to Study and Live in the UK - British Council

To do
To do

You’ve completed 6 steps in week 4
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Using cautious language

When presenting theories or discussing findings from research, cautious language tends to be used. This is
sometimes referred to a hedging. In the academic world knowledge tends to be developed through a
collaborative process, with academics testing one another’s claims. So one is much more likely to have one’s
ideas accepted if they’re presented cautiously.

There are a number of ways in which you can present your ideas in a cautious way, by using

modal verbs

International students may have difficulties adapting to a different culture

This increase might be due to other factors.

hedging verbs

These findings suggest that …

It is claimed that …

Young men tend to drive faster than young women.

frequency adverbs

International students sometimes have difficulties adapting to a new culture.

The symptoms usually disappear after about a week.

modal nouns

There is a tendency for …

The possibility of contamination was discussed.

More tips for writing in an academic style

On this course you may have noticed contracted forms are used (eg don’t, can’t, there’s) but in academic
writing you must use full forms (eg do not, cannot, there is).

Don’t use idiomatic language (eg a bit difficult, lots of problems, mum and dad). Use more formal
expressions instead (eg slightly difficult, many problems, parents) 1/3
1/30/2019 Using cautious language - Study UK: Prepare to Study and Live in the UK - British Council

Be as precise as possible, and if you’re not sure of the facts – check them. Instead of The earthquake
happened a few years ago, write The earthquake happened in 2007.

For a similar reason, try to avoid using etc. or and so on. If you can, give a full list.

The Academic Phrasebank provides lists of language that can be used in your writing. This language is
organised by the function that it has (eg describing trends, being critical, giving examples), and it’s made clear
that most of the language listed is “neutral and generic”, so that you can use it without fear of being accused of
plagiarism. However, this language is only intended to provide a framework for the content of your writing. Do
not overuse language from the Academic Phrasebank.

Your turn
In this extract below from Text B in Step 3.8, find some examples of cautious language. The article that this
extract comes from focuses on the diets of people in the UK, and the impact of what people eat on climate

The modelling presented here relied on a survey of food purchase data for input data on the current
UK diet. Although our comparison with NDNS food and nutrient intake data (Table 3) suggests that
the baseline diet estimates are reasonably valid, it does suggest that current UK fruit and vegetable
consumption may have been overestimated. This is likely to be the case, as household wastage of
fruit and vegetables is higher than that for other food categories. 36 This may have resulted in some
overestimation of the health impact of achieving the dietary scenarios.

B. Scarborough, P., Allender, S., Clarke, D., Wickramasinghe, K., & Rayner, M. (2012). Modelling
the health impact of environmentally sustainable dietary scenarios in the UK. European Journal of
Clinical Nutrition 66(6), 710–715.

Post your examples to the comments below.

Once you’ve posted your suggestions in the comment area, have a look at this PDF with our answer.

© British Council

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Responding to feedback on writing article Using impersonal language article


Using cautious language: answer key pdf

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