Grammar Hammer: So, Do Writing Disfluencies Exist?


so-grammar-hammerIn public speaking, you are taught to watch your use of “disfluencies” – as in the crutch words where you um, like, and you know your way through the silence as your brain scrambles to make a point.

Disfluencies can dilute your message and damage your credibility. When speaking to a crowd, ending each point with “you know” or “right” causes the listener to question your expertise on the topic you’ve just finished addressing. So, do they exist in writing? Yes, they do.

I went through an interesting exercise this week. I took a sampling of various things I’ve written — from memos to my team and reports for my boss to posts for Grammar Hammer and casual letters to friends and family – and discovered I have a chronic problem with “so.” I must really like this word since I start a lot of sentences with it.

Why am I doing that? Am I stalling? Am I trying to get your attention?

“So” is often used in these two parts of speech: 

1. As an adverb. For example, “Those dark chocolate dipped shortbread cookies were so good.”

2. As a conjunction to tie together two thoughts. For example,“I drove through a swarm of bees, so my windshield is covered in honey.”

But what you won’t typically find, grammatically, is any reason to start your sentence with the word “so.” So, what are we supposed to do?

The use of “so” seems to be another evolution of modern language. Using “so” at the beginning of a sentence implies that you’ve been meaning to express that particular thought or it implies that a logical conclusion follows. For example, “So, by adding vinegar to baking soda, you can clean your stainless steel sink without scratching it.”

Whether we like it or not, this disfluency (either written or verbal) is now part of the vernacular, so we may as well get used to it.

Have a grammar rule you’d like me to explore? Drop me a line at [email protected].

Author Catherine Spicer is a manager of customer content services at PR Newswire. A version of this post originally appeared on Beyond PR

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