So, Can You Guess How Many Times We Started A Sentence This Way In One Week?

A recovering blogger is not someone who should point fingers when it comes to grammar.

It should also be noted, as has pointed out, that it’s not necessarily true that it’s wrong to begin a sentence with the word “so” or any other coordinating conjunction.

What’s more, while we do want to speak and write well, we also want to “sound like America.”

But (to use another such conjunction), we do start our sentences with “so” an awful lot.

During the week of Aug. 17-23, NPR reporters, hosts, member station reporters and freelancers began sentences with the word “so” 237 times during broadcasts of Morning Edition, All Things Considered, Weekend Edition and Weekend All Things Considered.

According to librarian Sarah Knight, who did the research for us, the usage cuts across genders and ages. David Greene believes he may be our most frequent “so” sayer, but he’s certainly not alone.

This isn’t a new thing. Four years ago, The New York Times wrote that during one “dispatch on National Public Radio last month … a quarter of the sentences began with ‘so.’ ”

There’s a case to be made that we’ve been influenced by the people we meet and we’re just reflecting the way Americans speak. Three years ago, University of Delaware English professor Ben Yagoda wrote for The Chronicle of Higher Education that, “I’m an NPR power-listener, and so is to NPR interviewees as dude is to fraternity brothers.”

Should we do something about  this?

Fast Company columnist Hunter Thurman recently argued that starting sentences with “so” can undermine your credibility. Thurman made the case that “just like a speaking coach will tell you not to fill empty space with ‘um,’ you should avoid framing your answer as a rehearsed pitch by starting with ‘so.’ ”

Rutgers University communications professor Galina Bolden, however, told Business Insider that a “so” sentence “communicates that the speaker is interested in or concerned about the recipient.”

The bigger issue for us may be the repetition. Perhaps the thing to do is be aware and try this: If you feel the urge to write a “so” into your story or questions for a two-way, resist. Find another way to start that sentence.

Instead of:

“So, tell us exactly what you saw.”

Just say:

“Tell us what you saw.”

Or instead of:

“So, here’s how the incubator works.”


“Here’s how the incubator works.”

And so on.

(Memmos, Sept. 2, 2014)

September 2, 2014

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