This is a rerun of a post I wrote almost five years ago. I thought perhaps this linguistic hiccup might disappear, but it seems as robust as ever:
I’d like you to consciously listen to people around you today or—if you can stomach it—for a week and become aware of how many sentences are being started with the word “So.”
I am now seeing this fairly often in writing as well, which makes me not happy at all. “So” legitimately means “as a result”: “Benjamin failed his driving test twice, so he is very nervous he won’t pass on his final chance to take it again.”
That, however, is not how the word is flooding discourse these days. It’s being used as the very casual, conversational beginning of sentences:
So did I tell you about the new manager in Human Resources?
So a new series is starting on HBO tonight.
So I’m wondering when my niece is going to finish college.
So the new plan is to limit department meetings to 30 minutes.
In each of those sentences, the word does no work. You can erase it and no meaning is lost, no confusion ensues. Pay attention in the next few days. Good chance you even will catch yourself saying “So” when it is extraneous. If it carried meaning, I would have no problem with it. However, it’s just deadwood. Chop it out.