11 Ways to Hedge Your Claims Like an Academic—AND What Each Says About You


Conor P. Williams

Conor Williams on Twitter. More background here.

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13 Responses

  1. Avatar Chris says:

    12. Mutatis mutandis: I’m too lazy to make a new argument, so just take one I or someone else has already written and apply it to this other thing that may or may not be the same in the relevant ways.Report

  2. Avatar Stillwater says:

    I generally agree with #10, however, there is a use of “however” which maximizes both politeness as well as extreme disagreement.Report

  3. Avatar Michael Cain says:

    “It is clear that…” in the middle of a proof in a math lecture.

    What It Says About You: “It’s not, really, but I need to wind this up, so am going to skip over the complicated part. Most of you were going to take it on faith anyway, and the handful of you that actually care can work it out for yourselves given 10-12 hours and enough caffeine.”Report

    • Avatar Stillwater says:

      My Math-Logic Prof was very on very friendly terms with the hand wave. He’d write some axioms on the board, run thru five or none steps, then say “so you do a little more logic here” and then pick the proof up a few steps before the conclusion. It was amazing to watch. Amazing because the whole point of doing the proof was to, well, actually do it.

      I remember one proof where he started writing out the steps on the black-board, ran down one column, picked back up on another, transferred the last line to another column on the side of the room, got bogged down in some details, did the handwave (fill this in with some logic) and then realized what we all already knew: that there was no way to get to the conclusion from where he was in the proof. Some quibbling about certain moves ensued, the academic nerd version of kindergarden chaos, and he put up his hand to calm us down and said, as reassuringly as he could, “I’m not going to let this course go down the drain because of a negation.”Report

      • Avatar Michael Cain says:

        One of the folk tales in the math department at the University of Nebraska when I was there involved a graduate class. At some point the prof says, “Then it’s obvious that…” and writes something outlandish. One of the graduate students asks, “Is it really obvious?” The prof stops, puts down his chalk (which says something about how long ago this was), looks at what he’s just written, goes back and studies the couple of boards leading up to it, rubs his lip, paces back and forth across the front of the room a few times while scowling, then turns to the student with a smile, says “Yes!!”, and goes on with the lecture.Report

  4. Avatar Jaybird says:

    I try to use “put another way” as a set up to the punchline. “Put another way, allow me to undercut everything I’ve said so far with a joke, perhaps a pun.”Report

  5. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Goddamnit, these are all the words I use to confuse parents when writing report cards!Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    “with all due respect” = you and your mom are both full of it.Report

  7. Nob Akimoto Nob Akimoto says:

    You’re missing:
    “One of the striking features of….”
    Meaning: “Watch as I make people look bad for ignoring this point.”Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      “Under to this view” = “This bullshit these other people somehow got published (the peer review process isn’t want it used to be).”Report

  8. Avatar Kolohe says:


  9. Avatar Pinky says:

    “Of course, any number of other approaches would yield the same results” = I know of one and only one way to do this, but I’ve heard there are others, and I really should get around to looking them up some day.Report

    • Avatar Pinky says:

      A variant: “for example…” =
      “the only case I know of where this happened is…”
      “The case I did my dissertation on, and therefore the example I cite in every subsequent paper for the rest of my life, is…”Report