In academic writing, when expressing our views or presenting an argument, very few ideas can be stated as fact. Usually, our ideas contribute to a much wider debate. In this case, stating that something is a certainty can imply a lack of awareness around a topic area. Often it is more appropriate to lean towards caution.
Tentativeness refers to the various language choices that can be made between yes/no (something that is certain) and maybe (something that is not certain). By making certain choices about language, students can express varying degrees of certainty in their work. Consider the examples below:
For academic purposes, writing tends to be more tentative and expresses low certainty. Therefore, low tentative language is used to convey a reasoned and objective argument.
Below are some examples of the types of language that express both low and high certainty.
The language used in the tentative box is generally more appropriate for academic writing unless you are making recommendations for future research.
A traditional scientiﬁc perspective might be concerned with proving or disproving a hypothesis, in which case more certainty may be required. However, there still needs to be awareness that further experiments by others (or yourself) may disprove this certainty.
To download a PDF copy of the Tentative writing checklist, click the link below.