That’s the word for the fillers and qualifiers we inject into our speech and writing.
Don’t get me wrong: hedges can be useful - for clarity, for avoiding arrogance or softening a harsh message. But too often they add no value or undermine our message and our authority.
See what you think of my selection.
'At this stage...' (Suggesting that things may change)
'I'm sorry to say that ..' and 'Unfortunately...' (Expressing empathy)
'Approximately' and 'about' (May be necessary for clarity)
'I think...' (Just say it.)
'You know what I mean?' (Yes,of course we do!')
'If that makes sense...' (Of course it does and until now we wouldn't have thought that you would say things that didn't make sense.)
'I would like to apologise for...' (Okay in speech, but in writing, just apologise.)
'Well, that's my opinion anyway.' (Oh well, it doesn't matter then.)
Keep asking yourself, 'Do I really need this qualifier, or is it just undermining my message?'.
To some extent
'You cannot reason people out of an opinion they have not reasoned themselves into.'
That's a modern way of saying what Jonathon Swift observed in 1721.
Wouldn't persuasion be so much easier if we humans were entirely logical? The research makes it clear that we're not. We just think we are.
We treat our own opinions as more logical and well-informed than other people's opinions. We may not go as far as talking about alternative facts and rejecting other people's information or opinions as fake news, but it's only human to struggle with objectivity.
How much of a struggle?
Psychologists have studied more than 90 ways we humans compromise our objectivity. Let's just look at a selection.