BlogEnglishThe Essential List of High Modality Words for Persuasive Writing

The Essential List of High Modality Words for Persuasive Writing

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The word modality is often thrown around when discussing persuasive writing techniques but perhaps you are unsure what the word actually means or you are looking for resources to help incorporate more high modality words into a piece of writing. 

Look no further! We’ll be taking a look at what modality is, its importance in persuasive writing, the different types of modality and sharing some tips for editing for modality — there are even some examples included to assist you! 

Ready to improve your writing with modality? Let’s get started!

What is Modality?
Why is modality important in persuasive writing?
Low Modality Words
Medium Modality Words
High Modality Words
Editing Modality in Your Writing

What is Modality?

Modality refers to a set of verbs that provide information about the degree of obligation or certainty involved in an action. While modality can be conveyed through the choice of words, sentence structure and grammar when ‘modality’ is discussed in persuasive writing for Kindergarten to Year 6, this is usually in reference to word choice of verbs. 

Modal verbs and expressions are often used when expressing an opinion or attitude about a possible fact or to control a possible action. They help to convey the presenter’s attitude towards the topic they are writing about. 

There are two main ways that modal words may be utilised. Firstly, it may be used to convey how certain something is in the past, present or future. It is used to predict or speculate about a fact, helping to measure degrees of certainty and possibility.

Secondly, modal verbs can also be used to control or direct action like giving or refusing permission, talking about obligations or necessities. 

Why is modality important in persuasive writing?

The purpose of a persuasive text is to convince the reader that a certain stance is better or to change their own perspective and to adopt the one that is being proposed. While this may be achieved through facts, evidence, statistics, anecdotes and expert opinions — how this information is conveyed is also very important. This is where modality comes in! 

Low modality language implicitly conveys uncertainty. This will make a piece seem unconvincing to the reader as it would appear that the writer is either unsure about the topic they are writing on or that they are not fully convinced of the stance that they have chosen to take in writing their persuasive piece.  

In contrast, high modality language carries confidence and certainty with it. High modality words help to assert and emphasise facts. When utilised well they may even stir up strong feelings within the reader, making the reader more likely to be persuaded by the arguments being put forward.

Thus for persuasive writing it is recommended that high modality language is used throughout the piece due to its ability to help convince readers of the arguments being put forward and the certainty conveyed through the tone. 

Low Modality Words

Low modality words convey less certainty and obligation, generally, this makes a piece of writing sound uncertain and doubtful. 

Examples

MayCanCouldMight
PossiblySometimesProbablyLikely
UnlikelyModeratelyAlmostSomewhat
PartlyGenerallyMainlyPotentially
MaybePerhapsUsuallyGenerally
I thinkOccasionallyTends toRarely
SlightlyScarcelyQuiteWould

It may snow tonight. 

I would be happy. 

Perhaps the introduction of conservation efforts may help endangered species. 

Medium Modality Words

Medium modality words sit in between low and high modality words. They are not completely certain, nor are they completely doubtful.

If high modality was definite, and low modality is impossible; medium modality words convey a chance that something may happen. 

Examples

ShouldApparentlyRegularlyOstensibly
FrequentlyPresumablyHopefullyOften

It should snow tonight.

I am often happy. 

It is likely that conservation techniques could help endangered species. 

High Modality Words

High modality words convey certainty and higher degrees of obligation. When high modality words are used, confidence and intensity are conveyed to the reader making the language used in the writing seem more persuasive. 

Examples

MustShallWillNeed
DecidedlyUnquestionablyIsAbsolutely
AlwaysCertainlyClearlyDefinitely
RequiredNeverObviousNecessary
CompulsoryObligatoryEssentialHave to
EvidentAbove allOught toVital
IntegralImportantUndoubtedlyTotally
ExtremelyThoroughlyNeverBelieve
ConvincedPositivelyUndeniablyUltimately

It will snow tonight.

I shall be happy. 

It is evident that the introduction of conservation techniques is essential to helping endangered species. 

Editing Modality

The first draft of a piece of persuasive writing is often concerned with the structure and the order in which evidence is presented. Modality is usually implicitly utilised but not consciously or with intent.

Thus, when editing it is often valuable to observe how low or medium modality words can be transformed into high modality words and language. 

High modality words are more effective in convincing readers of the stance being advanced in a persuasive writing piece. This is because the arguments are delivered with confidence and certainty or is able to appeal to the emotions of the reader through the words used. 

Steps for Editing Modality

Step 1: Identifying modality 

When looking over a piece of writing, start with observing when words in the examples being given above have been used — you may underline or highlight them so that they are easy to identify when you edit later on. 

Examples: 

Uniforms worn in school may help to reduce evidence of economic disparity between students. 

Assigning homework to children in primary school could lead to unnecessary stress and may reduce the time available for skills and experiences that are non-academic but might be useful for life experience. 

Fossil fuels occasionally lead to negative impacts on our natural environment. 

Step 2: Replacing or deleting modality words

There are two ways to replace modality. The first is to replace low and medium modality words used to convey your argument and to replace them with high modality words.

The second is to ensure that low and medium modality words are used to present arguments from the other side that you are disputing. 

Interestingly, if low or medium modality words are used in a sentence, one of the solutions to making the sentence sound more certain and confident is to simply remove the word rather than replacing it with a high modality verb. 

Examples:

Uniforms (may) reduce evidence of economic disparity between students.

Assigning homework to children in primary school will lead to unnecessary stress and (may) reduce the time available for skills and experiences that are non-academic but (might) remain useful for life experience. 

The use of fossil fuels always leads to negative impacts on our environment. 

Step 3: Considering non-verbs in conveying modality 

While this is usually trickier to identify and edit, things like sentence structure, adverbs, nouns, and adjectives also have an impact on modality.

The easiest way to do this is to read a sentence out loud and ask yourself if it sounds confident or if there may be a more direct way to convey the argument — if there is rewrite the sentence and this will help increase the modality for your persuasive writing piece as well! 

Examples: 

Bad consequences → devastating consequences 

Low-stress → absence of stress or stress-free

Believe → know 

Weird  → ridiculous/absurd

There you have it!

Now that you know all about how you can improve your persuasive writing by using powerful high modality words, it’s time to put it into practice!

If you’re on the hunt for other helpful resources, check out some below:

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Tiffany Fong is currently completing a double degree in Media and Communications with Law at Macquarie University. She currently contributes to the university zine, Grapeshot where she enjoys writing feature articles, commentary on current affairs or whatever weird interest that has taken over her mind during that month. During her spare time, Tiffany enjoys reading, writing, taking care of her plants or cuddling with her two dogs.

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