So…..sentence starters


So…here in the UK apparently we’re starting sentences, often pointlessly, with the word ‘so’.

So, why are we doing that? [Intentional] We’re using it as both a ‘filler’ between sentences very much like ‘erm’, as a filling word to allow us the few precious seconds which enable us to think what we’re going to say next. We’re also using it as a starting point to our next point. Academics and professors have just it for years as a sort of ‘here’s a big and important point/theory coming up so pay attention’, which some have found to be slightly patronising.

But more than this the increasing use of the word ‘so’ in particular is born simply out of habit. You get used to saying this word as a sentence starter and therefore keep using it (or in fact any word in particular). And you probably use it more than you think you do. I don’t think I use ‘so’ that much, I’m more of a user of ‘Yeah…’ to start my sentences – don’t ask me why, it’s a habit that I find extremely annoying and I’m trying to fix. (I think it must be when I continue the conversation on in my head when there’s been a lull in the conversation, and then add another point beginning, ‘Yeah…’. My habit seems to be more of a continuation of the whole conversation, rather than pointing out and drawing attention to a new topic/theory/or strand of the same conversation.)

But obviously we use the word ‘so’ enough for it to be picked up on and talked about. And the primary thing is, that it’s okay to use the word, even at the beginning of the sentence like we are doing, but really its the frequency with which we use ‘so…..’ where the “problem” arises. It’s not so much a “problem”, but more of an annoyance, especially with so many other words in our wonderfully dynamic language to use.


But this is really just in speech, you certainly wouldn’t write this in prose in fiction. But it is an interesting development in the ever-changing, ever adapting use of language, and something writers should be aware of when writing dialogue set in the present day – obviously it’ll be more difficult to find out if something of this kind was used in say, the Victorian age, or in the age of the Civil War, because it is in fluid speech and does not feature in written historical documents on which we rely on when we conduct research.

So……I’ll be keeping track today of if I say ‘so…’ and how many times if I do. And I’ll be listening out for others around me too.

Are you a culprit of this? Or do you use another word as a ‘filler’?

2 comments on “So…..sentence starters

  1. I see “so” used in written dialogue, too, which I suppose makes sense if this really is the way people speak. I look at it as a filler word, which serves the useful purpose of providing a pause or emphasis (as you pointed out), but like any filler word it is best when used sparingly.

  2. No. This misses the point. Yes, some are beginning to use “So” to start a sentence as a stall phrase like “well”. But that is not the root of this phenomena. I first became aware of this from V.P. candidate Paul Ryan during the campaign. He began using “so” to begin the first sentence, in answering a question. It was clearly and very specifically a technique that he learned somewhere….intended to neutralize reporters “questions” that were not really questions but charges or statements of opinion….intended to disqualify a politician they don’t like. I guarantee you that whoever the gurus of campaign interview training are…..they can tell you where this strategy comes from. Yes, it has crossed over into the conversational “pop” culture…and it being used by mindless fools who have no idea why they are using it. Paul Ryan did know why he was using it…..although I doubt that he would ever admit it. Only politicians answering media questions in interviews did it for several years.

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