So, I’m unbuttoning my uptight grammar says Gill Booles

So split infinitives? I can take ‘em or leave ‘em. Depends if anybody’s looking or likely to mind. I can construct sentences with or without.

It’s all about context. Depending on what company I keep I can loosen the collar, and let my words relax a bit. Be a bit more chatty.

I’m also not adverse to bending the rules. After all language isn’t set in stone.

So, when did starting a sentence in this way become as normal as a Come Dine Me contestant greeting the guest on their doorstep with a ‘look at you!’?


Everyone’s doing it.

I’m not sure if I like it. I feel wrong footed. So is a word used to connect with something that’s previously been said or happened. When you use it at the start I ignore any words that follow while I try and work out what I’ve missed.

So? I also feel like I’m being interrogated.

On radio it’s most noticeable. The retail spokesperson being interviewed just now started every sentence with ‘So,…’. To my ears he sounded uncertain, hesitant. Our speech contains fillers – the ums and ahs – which we use to buy time to think, and the ‘so’ can be a useful pause.

Written down though ‘so’ implies intimacy, like the visitor who kicks off their shoes and puts their feet on the table. The assumption is we’ll be OK; that they know us well enough not to wait to be asked.

So, my advice? Leave ‘so’ in the middle of the sentence. Don’t bring it to the start. Unless of course you want to pass yourself off as a computer programmer, according to this 2011 piece from the Chronicle of Higher Education.

So, what do you think?