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Osceola Writing Center

Qualified vs. Absolute Statements

Knowing when to qualify a statement or when it's OK to use an absolute statement will only help to make your academic writing more accurate and your explanations more logical.

Absolute Statements

Defined: If something is absolute, it is 100% one way or another; it is not relative or comparative.

For example:

If someone says, "Grass is green," it suggests that all grass, in any place and at any time, is green. It doesn't leave room for variation, and consequently it is an absolute statement. This is different than a qualified statement, which would suggest something like "Sometimes grass is green."

Now, it's possible for an absolute statement to be true, but more often than not you will usually need some kind of evidence or support to back up your claim. If you don't provide support, it can create problems with the logic of your paper.

Real World Example

Let's say you are writing a paper about business management, and somewhere in your paper you say, "Supervisors and managers do not care about employees; all they care about is making money." This is an absolute statement- it leaves no room for a different option. Thus, you are defining all supervisors and managers as being one way- money hungry and devoid of care for employee well-being. Of course, common sense tells us that there are supervisors and managers that do actually care about their employees, not just making money, so such a statement would cause your reader to question your logic in this matter (and probably put doubt in the logic within other areas of your paper).

Words like always and never, and the use of "be" verbs (is, are, etc) often indicate an absolute statement.

 

Qualified Statements

Defined: Unlike absolute statements, qualified statements leave room for other options, opinions, and situations.

For example:

"I usually play volleyball on Sundays," lets your reader know that while you may often play volleyball on Sundays, it's likely that there are Sundays when you don't play volleyball. As a result, your statement is qualified because you leave room for variation - you don't play volleyball on Sundays 100% of the time.

Even though absolute statements, apart from historical statements or common knowledge, should almost always be accompanied by some kind of evidence or support (typically by citing research), qualified statements may or may not require evidence. It depends on the degree of qualification.

For example:

Saying "Managers are usually men," is a qualified statement because of the use of "usually." Still, this statement would probably need a citation because even though it's qualified, "usually" is pretty close to absolute (let's say 85-95%). If you don't provide a citation for this information, your reader could still question your logic because how do you know that managers are usually men? Did you read it somewhere? Did you see a statistic? Or are you just assuming?

On the other hand, if you say, "Managers can be men," your statement is qualified in such a way that you don't really need any kind of citation. Since you allow "enough room" for variation, your logic can't really be questioned- it's more of a common sense statement rather than one that needs supported.

 

More Resources

For a table of common absolute/qualified words, click HERE.

Qualifiers Handout

 

 
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