Starting a sentence with a conjunction has long been a point of contention. Many of us have grown up with this grammatical style strongly enforced by our teachers. However, it might not be as wrong as we think. Recently, there has been a resurgence in its use with some likening it to um, and like, due to its overuse in writing. Some writers simply label it as the latest trend in writing style.
In fact, starting a sentence with a conjunction such as so, for, but can actually be totally acceptable. Most people don’t care, but those who do, care a whole lot. So, why do many people hate seeing it? Well, the main reason is that it can result in fragmented sentences, which impede flow and readability. Another reason is the fact that it can give a condescending tone to a piece of writing. But, they do have their uses (just as we used them in the last few sentences).
Roles of so
We’ll now take a look at the different ways of using the word. When not at the beginning it can simply be used as an adverb to create more intensity around an adjective like this:
That puppy is so cute.
This is very common in informal writing and should be avoided in more professional pieces. It can be used as a conjunction like this:
The puppy was cute, so I picked it up.
And then, we come to using so at the start of a sentence.
Starting with so
Often so is used in a similar way as the last example, as a conjunction, but placed at the start of a sentence;
The puppy was cute. So, I picked it up.
When you use a conjunction at the start of a sentence, it makes much more of an impact. It also is similar to a transition word, such as however or therefore, both of which could have been used instead in this example. This type of use must always see the word followed by a comma, even in the middle of sentences.
Incorrect: The puppy was cute. So I picked it up.
It should be noted though, that this is STILL not the so that annoys people despite starting a sentence. Linguists will explain that this is something called a discourse marker – a word that connects ideas in a conversational manner.
Another example of this would be:
So, how have you been?
This is not the same use as above and simply refers to information that both parties of the conversation have access to. We can also use so to come back to something mentioned earlier in a conversation:
So tell me about the puppy.
Really, what annoys people is the use of so just to start a sentence;
So, I saw the cute puppy and I picked it up.
This type of usage is more used in speech rather than writing. But if you’re aware of it, you can avoid it! Or indeed use it in your writing when writing conversations – that added bit of realism never hurt anyone.
So, here are our final words
There you have it. There are multiple ways to use so at the start of a sentence and all of them are correct. At the end of the day though, try not to overuse them as they can become annoying and even the best of us run the risk of fragmented sentences if we do so.
If you’d like to get to grips with more grammar issues, head over to the Topcontent blog and see what other conjunctions you can start a sentence with.