Keep an eye out for overhedging. Some writers are timid—or pretend to be—about making a statement, so they hedge: “I believe,” “it seems to me,” “may be,” “suggests that,” et cetera. The problem is that, having hedged, they often worry that they still have been too positive, so they hedge again, often in the same sentence or phrase. The result is redundancy or, worse, a mannerism that becomes conspicuous.

A few examples, with suggested editing:

“I would like to suggest” → “I suggest” (It is obvious that the author would like to.)

“The implication seems to be” → “The implication is” (“Implication” has already done the work of “seems.”)

“The suggestion that it may have little to do with” → “The suggestion that it has little to do with” (“Suggestion” has already done the work of “may.”)

When the topic is highly touchy and an author has reason to squirm, a copyeditor should refrain from making such suggestions.

Photo of Michael Kandel

Michael Kandel

Michael Kandel edited publications at the MLA for twenty-one years. He also translated several Polish writers, among them Stanisław Lem, Andrzej Stasiuk, Marek Huberath, and Paweł Huelle, and edited, for Harcourt Brace, several American writers, among them Jonathan Lethem, Ursula K. Le Guin, James Morrow, and Patricia Anthony.