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Everyone is starting their sentences with the word “so” these days, right? Yes, it has been used a lot lately; we can say a lot more than before.
A firm recently attacked the use of “so” at the start of sentences, claiming it insults your audience, undermines your credibility, and demonstrates discomfort with the subject matter.
One of my business partners, to my surprise, also commented negatively on using “So”, when I wrote it down on one of the cards I was sending to other friends, saying if he was a teacher of English language, he would have given me “B” coz of using the “So”
So, I decided to answer him here, and in front of all of you, coz probably there are people among you who would think exactly the same way he is thinking about the poor “so”.
I’m answering him here for another reason, which is that he knew I am a teacher of English language; nevertheless, he wasn’t cautious enough to enter into an argument with me, haha!
linguistically speaking, the use of “so” at the beginning of sentences can serve an important function.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg notoriously uses “so” to start sentences. In a Q&A with New York Times’, he dropped it four times in just the first answer.
The word “so” appears at the beginning of sentences in two ways: before questions and before answers, especially during interviews, Galina Bolden, associate professor of communication at Rutgers University, who published research in 2008, focusing on the first example. According to data from both the U.S. and U.K. in the 1970s through the 2000s, however, the former is much more common.
“So” at the start of a question often marks the beginning of a new topic that one of the parties wants to discuss, often called an “interactional agenda,” according to Bolden.
“When I ask — ‘So how did your interview go?’ — I indicate that I’ve been meaning to ask this question for a while, that it’s been on my mind, or incipient,” she explained.
However, Hunter Thurman wrote that a speaker’s use of “so” indicates something rehearsed and dumped-down. As a result, he claims, “so” alienates your audience.
But the transformation of “so” from a mid-sentence conjunction to an interjection at the beginning of questions contributes to human relationships, according to Bolden.
“It communicates that the speaker is interested in or concerned about the recipient,” Bolden said. “It also invokes prior conversations between the speaker and the recipient, drawing on their relationship history.” I feel, it serves a more warm relationship between the speaker and the client too.
While Bolden said “so” appears less frequently before answers, the journalist Michael Lewis noticed its prevalence when exploring Silicon Valley for his 2001 book “The New Thing,” The New York Times reported. He claims programmers, especially of the Microsoft variety, started, or at least popularized, beginning answers with “so.” Maybe that’s where Zuck learned it.
I would add that “so” lessen the degree of formality which comes up in between the salesperson and her/his prospective clients. It does the opposite of alienation, which is disarming your patrons.
Claiming that the usage of “so” frequently started in the Silicon Valley, is something said but had no proofs about it. “so” has been used since the time of Shakespeare, or even before. Although I am not a history linguist, but I studied linguistics, prose, poetry, and literature.
I am in favor of saying that the increase of the usage of “s” at the beginning of the sentence has emerged from our movies. It makes sense that more communicative ways have been developed via TV interaction or movies scenario models.
Since I am an advocate of communicative approach when it comes to English language application, I would say, there is nothing wrong in using any word, so long as it conveys what you mean to your opponent. Because if language fails to serve the purpose of your speech, it would become obsolete.
The “so” boom is likely a natural progression of language, not a spin-off of tech-industry jargon. It’s helping us communicate better, and this is what counts.
Thank you KC, my 1Zumba friend, for giving me a chance to speak about something I like. I hope that you’d be with me next time I ‘d start a paragraph with a “So”!