Hedges Used in Business Emails: A Corpus Study on the Language Strategy of International Business Communication Online

  •  Siwei Yue    
  •  Xuefei Wang    


Based on a corpus of 296 authentic business emails produced in computer-mediated business communication from 7 Chinese international trade enterprises, this paper addresses the language strategy applied in CMC (Computer-mediated Communication) by examining the use of hedges. With the emergence of internet, a wider range of hedges are applied extensively in four types of business emails: marketing email, inquiry email, quotation email, follow-up email. Marketing emails have the most hedges while follow-up emails, quotation emails have the least, and inquiry emails in between. As plausible shields, modal verbs are massively adopted in four types of business emails to show politeness and eagerness for business partnership. Marketing emails employ adaptors and rounders to soften the exaggerated expressions in the introduction to the company and its products so as to make a convincing promotion. Both inquiry emails and quotation emails use adaptors and rounders very often when figures concerning products and prices are deliberately offered in a modest way for further negotiation. Follow-up emails use rounders, adaptors and attribute shield extensively in negotiating and reaching agreement. The three types of hedges help both parties to reduce risk and defend themselves against claims with tactic language strategy. The use of hedges in business emails demonstrates the flexibility of business communication with the help of IT technology. The rules of accurate expressions in business letters are no longer strictly observed in computer-mediated communication. The breakthrough of extensive hedge using in business emails showcases a change in business communication manners mediated by IT technology.

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