Metadiscourse is a term that is used in philosophy to denote a discussion about a discussion (and so on), as opposed to a simple discussion about a given topic.
The term metadiscourse is also used in writing to describe a word or phrase that comments on what is in the sentence, usually as an introductory adverbial clause. It is any phrase that is included within a clause or sentence that goes beyond the subject itself, often to examine the purpose of the sentence or a response from the author. Metadiscourse includes phrases such as "frankly," "after all," "on the other hand," "to our surprise," and so on.
Below are some examples of metadiscourse in writing, denoting:
- the writer's intentions: "to sum up," "candidly," "I believe"
- the writer's confidence: "may," "perhaps," "certainly," "must"
- directions to the reader: "note that," "finally," "therefore," "however"
- the structure of the text: "first," "second," "finally," "therefore," "however"
Most writing needs metadiscourse, but too much buries ideas. Technical, academic, and other non-fiction writers should use metadiscourse sparingly.
- Ken Hyland: Metadiscourse. Exploring Interaction in Writing. Continuum, London 2007, ISBN 0-8264-7610-4.
- M. Joseph Williams: Style: the Basics of Clarity and Grace.
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