Adverbs for Hedging (Linguistics 12)
Using Starting Lines & Exploring Options in Academic Writing by Jan Frodesen

Below is a lesson plan by Ingrid Bowman, a sublimely talented lecturer in the EMS program, on helping students using hedging language in their academic writing.  This piece would be incredibly useful to all Linguistics 12, Writing 1, and Writing 2 instructors. ~Chris Dean

Objective: To transform generalizations that arise in students’ academic writing through overuse of adverbs such as never, always or totally. By the end of this lesson, successful students will recognize typical frequency adverbs commonly used in academic writing to limit or qualify statements (i.e. hedging) and revise a piece of their own writing to avoid generalizations.

1. Language Input: Jan Frodesen’s book has an excellent overview of hedging and frequency adverbs (see pages 191- 195) for the Instructor to reference and offer input to the students. These pages are also useful to highlight and discuss the word order of such adverbs in the sentence. (For example: College students generally complete their degrees in four years. VS Generally, college students complete their degrees in four years.) Other exercises with hedging adverbs can also be found on the Internet.

2. Starting Lines essay analysis:

  • Option A: Choose two paragraphs or essay sections to examine for actual hedging adverbs. Students circle any hedging adverbs (such as normally, on average, seldom, etc.). Then, they discuss their findings with a partner. Finally, the whole class debriefs.
  • Option B: Set up a jigsaw task with two Starting Lines essays and two published academic essays (A, B, C, D). Each group of students examines the hedging adverbs in their essay together in an effort to agree on their findings. Then, regroup students so that a representative for each essay reports back to the group for comparison.
  • Use this thought question: Why was each adverb used? Why is the writer hedging in this instance? Overall, how frequently are such adverbs used throughout the essay?

3. In-class Revision: Take out the essay draft you are currently working on. Give it to a partner. That partner will circle any adverbs you included for hedging. Together, discuss these questions:

  • Which hedging adverbs did you use? Why?
  •  Haveyou have used enough of them?
  • How much are you varying your choice of adverbs?

4. Revise one paragraph of your paper with specific attention to avoiding generalizations. Hand in the before and after versions for credit.

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