Hedging devices in academic writing

In the world of banking it is possible to invest money in a so-called hedge fund. This kind of investment allows you to invest your money without being 100% certain about making a profit, even though you are quietly confident that you will.

In the world of language we can do something similar. We can use hedging devices in writing to show that we are ‘confidently uncertain’ about our claims.

Let’s take a bold claim and look at how we might use hedging devices to ‘soften’ it to show that we are uncertain but confident. Compare the following texts. Continue reading

Throw food (away)

Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw food.

The featured image for this post shows a man retrieving a pizza from a roof. This is how it got there:

Throwing pizza

Obviously the man doesn’t want to eat the pizza. However, most people in that situation would either give it someone else or throw it away:

Pizza in bin

So that’s two different ways to get rid of a pizza in English, each using a slightly different verb:

  1. If I throw food I send it flying through the air, often without too much thought for where it’s going to land.
  2. A straightforward verb – throw (Indonesian flag lempar).
  1. If I throw food away, I dispose of it in a place designed for waste collection – a dustbin, for example.
  2. A phrasal verb that includes a preposition – throw away (Indonesian flag buang). As with many phrasal verbs, the preposition can move, and so I can throw away food, or I can throw food away

If you’re talking about people starving in the world, it’s more normal to use the second of these meanings!

  • Since there are many starving people in the world, it is better not to throw away food.

The art of which?

The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

This is potentially sophisticated. You need:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

OK, so what’s happening here? Well we have..

independent clause in which independent clause
The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony in which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

But notice that the second independent clause describes the thing mentioned in the rheme of the first independent clause (balance and harmony).

Actually you can also use according to which:

  • The arts perhaps bring balance and harmony according to which the arts are not just what you see but what you make others see.

Hmm OK so let me see if I can create my own example following the same 3 elements. (Just let me roll up my sleeves. Ahem.) OK here goes..

  • Language acquisition is a gradual process in which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.
  • Language acquisition is a gradual process according to which students struggle to master the grammatical and phonological rules of a new language.

OK. Now your turn! Comments below this post, please!

Not everything is ‘convenient’

Physical shops are more convenient than online stores. Firstly, in physical shops customers are able to touch goods and try on clothes. Secondly, shopping in physical shops can be a social activity.

There is a category of physical store aptly named ‘convenience stores‘. Many countries have 7 Elevens. In Indonesia we have Indomaret, Alfamart and Circle K.

Indonesian flag Indonesians might call a shop that sells everything at a low price ‘convenient‘. However, the prices in convenience stores like Circle K can be quite a lot higher than average. These shops inflate prices precisely so that they can offer ‘conveniences‘:

  • they are numerous, especially in cities
  • they have ample parking if they are situated on a road
  • they can even be found inside large shopping centres
  • they stock items that most people need on a daily basis
  • they provide fast and efficient service

These are all features that native English speakers would consider ‘convenient‘. In English something is ‘convenient‘ when it saves you time and effort. Being able to touch goods is not a matter of ‘convenience‘. It may be practical, but it is not what most people would call ‘convenient‘, and neither is meeting your friends when you go to physical stores.

For your convenience, here are some definitions of ‘convenience’, as well as some pictures of convenient things.

‘Other’ in IELTS Task 1

Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose Other.

studentsandfastfood.jpg

OK the problem here is that ‘other‘ is rarely used as a noun. Generally it is used as a noun modifier: “other people“, “other things“, etc. In the above example, what is the noun that is being modified by ‘other’? Well, all of the items in the chart belong to a class, or group, and the name of that group is usually given as a label on the chart. In any case we know that Bakso, Martabak, and Siomay are all different kinds of Asian fast food, so we can write:

  • Bakso was chosen by 60% of students, Martabak by 20%, Siomay by 15%, and only 5% chose other kinds of Asian fast food.

Other‘ is used as a noun in sociology, psychology and anthropology to identify and possibly explain ‘something different from us‘, either as individuals or as a society. In these contexts there is a related concept: ‘otherness‘.

Involve(d) in

Giving a challenge for human workers to involve in controlling machines is a good idea.

Involve as adjective

You got the preposition right, but the wrong form of ‘involve’. This is nearly always constructed as an ‘ed’ adjective phrase:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to be involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

‘Get’ also collocates strongly with ‘involved in’, as does the more formal ‘become’:

  • Giving a challenge for human workers to get/become involved in controlling machines is a good idea.

It’s not always necessary to mention the activity that someone is involved in:

  • I’m involved.

Indonesian flag For Indonesians there are easy translations for involved as adjective:

  • involved – terlibat
  • (to be) involved in – terlibat dalam

Involve as a verb

If you want to use involve as a verb, usually there is an indirect object:

  • I rarely involve myself in politics.

Indonesian flag Again, for Indonesians there is an easy translation.

  • to involve + someone + in + something – melibatkan … dalam …

No ‘second’ winner!

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. The second winner was Justin Gatlin.

The Olympics in Rio produced many winners, but…

In the 100m running the winner was Usain Bolt. Justin Gatlin came second.

We can also say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second.
  • Justin Gatlin finished second.

However, we cannot say:

  • Justin Gatlin was second winner. (Indonesian flag ‘Juara dua’!)

Unfortunately in a particular competition there can only be one winner. In this particular case the winner was Bolt.