Don't use "so"

No, this is not an edict or a demand, just a challenge. I noticed I used “so” quite a bit in my posts - to the point where it annoyed me. I’ve been making an effort to minimize its use, and sometimes it’s a real challenge.

I really hate when people start conversations or answer questions starting with “So I/we/you/they/it blah blah blah…” I hear it far too often during news interviews and it shows up in threads here with irritating frequency. We don’t want to irritate me, do we??


Just for kicks, have a little “so” awareness and see how it affects your writing and speaking. There are lots of ways to work around it and still convey the information.

My next challenge is at work, to promote “fuck” and “shit” awareness. It’s not offensive as in clutch-my-pearls-and-swoon, but it does make me wonder at the intelligence of the engineers around me. Things apparently don’t fail, they’re fucked. And we don’t deal with structural components and electronic devices, it’s all shit. Kids these days… :rolleyes:

This again?

Doesn’t bother me one bit, to be honest.

Swearing has become such a part of many people’s vocabulary, it loses its power.

Swearing has a crucial purpose. There are three places where it’s appropriate to swear: when you’re in pain, such as when you stub your toe or cut yourself; to insult someone who really deserves your disdain; and when it’s funny, to give a joke extra punch. Outside of those situations, swearing should be eliminated from your vocabulary, so that it doesn’t lose its impact.

But “sew” is okay, right?

Sew away! Or stitch, tailor, alter, seam, as the spirit moves you.

Who’s gonna tell Rudyard Kipling?


So what?

Sorry. I couldn’t resist.

I so don’t care.

It’s a common phrase that means “going to”.

I’m disappointed - I expected by now someone would have posted “So fuck that shit.”

What a letdown.

So fuck that shit!

So there, ya fuckin’ happy now?!

So why would anyone care to take up such a challenge?

So, I’m like “So?”

Yes, there’ve been various threads on this before, (this one is the most recent, I think.) And, yes, if you just make a blanket prohibition of a single word, then you don’t understand the full complexity of language. The problem is when people use so in certain situations: It’s when they begin their answer to a question about a new topic, and they do this because they think it will make themselves sound smarter–more like an expert. It happens a lot in interviews, but is spreading to regular conversation.

That’s the problem. It’s pretentious.

Lake Superior State University has put it at the top of its list of overused words in 2015in this particular usage.

Here’s an example I offered in the earlier thread–it’s exaggerated, but that’s to illustrate the point.

Remember, we’re specifically talking about answering a question on a new topic. Imagine a conversation like this:

A: Do you come here often?
B: So I come by from time to time, after work.
A: Yeah, me too. What do you do?
B: So I’m a cashier.
A: Really? Where?
B: So I work at the boutique up the street.
A: Cool. I like that place. What’s it called again?
B: So it’s called “Y Que?”
A: Right! I can never remember it. Have you been there long?
B: So I started there last August.
A: Nice. Haven’t I seen you at the college?
B: So yes, I’m a student, too.
A: Yeah, me too. What do you study?
B: So I study theater.

If this doesn’t bother you, I think you might need to get your ears cleaned.

I have a larger version of the problem. I want to start a lot of sentences with “So,” “But,” “Thus,” etc. Almost all of which I can delete without affecting the meaning of the sentence.

Yes, we’ve discussed this a number of times. My position is that an introductory “so” has a place as a discourse marker, indicating that one is going to begin by setting context. It primes the listener for an indirect answer. When you hear an introductory “so”, it means there’s a story coming, not a “yes” or “no”. It’s prevalent in interviews because interviewees often want to establish context (or spin) for their answers, and they also want to preempt interruptions by letting the interviewer know that their response may take a while.

It can also be used, with humorous intent, to change a subject. In that case, I take it as shorthand for “Someone killed the conversation by saying something awkward, so I’m going to talk about [new topic]”.

It can be overused and misused, of course. I suspect that overuse on the news has caused people to pick it up as a verbal tic without understanding its purpose. It’s good to be aware of it and to try to use it only when it has value as a marker.

Conjunctions (so, but, and, because, etc.) and certain adverbs (thus) are important for showing the relationship between the meanings of clauses in both conversational turn-taking and extended (written) discourse. Normally they’re not “unnecessary” at all, and, in fact, they’re critical for demonstrating the complex relations of ideas. You could say that propositionally they don’t “affect the meaning” of a solitary clause, but then you’d be missing the larger picture of language.

What we’re talking about here in this thread, however, is just one particular, pretentious misuse–a specific affectation.

FWIW, it doesn’t bug me, either. It’s just a placeholder, pause type of word. (ETA: Actually, a type of discourse marker, as mentioned above, better describes it. I don’t usually hear it with such short answers as in your example.) I don’t even notice it unless it’s pointed out. Same thing with the word “well.”

Ref ftg, I have the same habit, and probably to excess.

But (:)) it seems to me the purpose of those intro words is to announce a change in POV, attitude, etc. Absent them, the reader is expecting continuity and will be confused or slowed down when it eventually becomes apparent the next sentence is going or coming from a different direction.

Perhaps the right answer is to stick a paragraph break wherever you’d be inclined to put an intro word.

IME that tends to lead to single-sentence paragraphs. Which (:)?) are awkward themselves unless they represent dialog.

I’d welcome informed criticism / suggestions.