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It could be argued

June 18, 2014

I’ve just finished marking a shitload of undergraduate essays on Children’s Literature for the Open University, and about 80% of them used the bland, mealy-mouthed phrase “It could be argued that”, often on multiple occasions. I do find this usage irritating. What does it mean? If a point can be argued, then by all means argue it. That’s what you get marks for. Don’t just say it can be argued and leave it at that.

Probably the phrase has become popular because it sounds a slightly more scholarly way of admitting to uncertainty than “maybe”. But to me it screams “Look, I’m sitting on the fence, see?”

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