Choosing from the modal range
When you are choosing from the range of modal possibilities, you are choosing to make statements along the spectrum from absolute positive to absolute negative. In between these absolutes, there is a range of possible terms you can use for expressing degrees of certainty and doubt, usuality, obligation and necessity.
You may find it useful to think about modality in terms of high, medium and low. This may help you choose effectively from the range of modal possibilities.
The following table provides a rough guide to high, medium and low modality choices.
|Usuality (how frequently something happens or is the case)|
|Probability or certainty (that something is the case)|
|Obligation (the need for things to be a certain way)|
|Ability (of someone or something to do something)|
|Inclination (of a person to do something)|
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Other situations that call for the use of high modality language.
The use of high modality language in academic writing depends foremost upon the amount of evidence supporting your argument. However, factors such as the genre of the writing, its purpose and conventions, as well as the discipline being studied, also influence the use of high modality writing. Look at the different ways high modality language has been used to answer a specific purpose in the following examples.
In the following excerpt from an argumentative or exhortative essay in Creative Arts the writer concludes his or her essay by urging change.
One could argue that criteria used to judge artists' work should be assessed. Art history is dominated by male artists, and predominantly taught and written by men. This has produced an inherently male imagery that dominates and defines art practice and art assessment. The impact of this gender imbalance in the discipline, and indeed the gender imbalance itself, should be investigated.
In the following excerpt from a scientific article, the authors make a strong recommendation for the direction of future research. The results of the authors' investigation provide support for this high modality stance.
There are few data that provide more than a glimpse of the potential problem for Aborigines and tuberculosis. There is no potential to be confident about the size of the problem, nor to calculate risk versus benefits of preventive therapy. More information is necessaryto develop specific public health programs. At the very least, it is essential thatmore information about tuberculin-skin-test positivity be obtained to consider preventive therapy for people infected with tuberculosis.
Plant, A. J., Krause, V. L., Condon, J. R., and Kerr, C. (1995) Aborigines and tuberculosis: why they are at risk. Australian Journal of Public Health, 19(5), 487-
The following is an excerpt from a Management essay in which the students was required to analyse a case study and provide solutions to the issues identified. In subjects such as this where theory meets practise, high modality language is often used because the writing genre requires the writer to make recommendations about problem solutions or appropriate courses of actions.
The analysis of this case study has indicated that the manager could definitely improve his skills in areas such as effective communication, delegation, and office layout. In addition, it is clear from the solutions offered in this essay that the manager could easily restore harmony to the workgroup. In order to do this, the manager must develop a team culture which encourages effective and constructive communication. This change would allow the work group meeting to become the focal point of the organisational unit ensuring that the situation outlined in the case study would be prevented from occurring in the future.
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