Remove unnecessary hedging

To "hedge" is to protect one's arguments or statements with qualifications that allow for unknown contingencies or withdrawal from commitment. It also means to allow for escape or retreat. Whether from timidity, awe at the complexity of natural phenomena, or a misunderstanding of scientific "objectivity," scientists love to hedge (Table 5.1).

In fact, double and triple hedges are common. However, each additional qualifier drains more force from the sentence. Sometimes the result is a sentence that says nothing at all.

The cause of the degenerative changes is unknown but possibly one cause may be infection by a presumed parasite.

One way of saying "I'm not sure" is usually enough in a sentence. When one hedging word is already in a sentence, prune away all the rest. However, if qualifying clauses must be used in a statement for accuracy, by all means include them. If there are many, consider itemizing them.

Condense for brevity

Editing for conciseness is both a matter of choosing the shorter, simpler alternative to express each word, phrase, and idea and a matter of eliminating redundancy. Wordiness is a common problem both within and outside the scientific community. Manuscripts are regularly returned to authors with the instructions, "Shorten this considerably before resubmitting it." Do not despair if this happens. A wide range of methods is available to edit for conciseness without having to remove significant material from the text. However, by attending to these matters before submitting the typescript, you may avoid that dreaded editorial directive entirely.

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