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wundayatta's avatar

What do you think of the use of "so" and "well" as sentence starters in writing?

Asked by wundayatta (58377 points ) January 30th, 2013

So, I often start my sentences on fluther this way. I think it is something borrowed from conversational interactions where we need a word that will jump in and grab sound space and attention and to indicate it is our turn to talk.

“Sooooooo,” and “Weeeeeeell” both are good words to grab that space, draw out that sound, silence others and then talk.

But they are unnecessary in written speech. We don’t need to grab space. Written speech is asynchronous, so we can have all the space we want.

Yet I find starting a post without them to be too direct. It jumps into things to abruptly. I try to think of starting the sentence after the “so” and it just doesn’t sound right in my head.

What do you think? Does the “so” or “well” serve any useful purpose in written language? What is going on here? How do you start sentences without it without sounding rough and abrupt?

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9 Answers

Pachy's avatar

As an ad copywriter, I learned to write sentences in short bursts, and often, starting one with “So” was both necessary and effective. However, I don’t do much of that kind of writing anymore and now tend write complete sentence for the kind of materials I do write. On the spoken side, everybody at my office but especially engineers starts sentences with “So,” and I dislike it, not just because it sounds like the “in” thing to do, but more importantly, because it’s rarely necessary.

For example, why start a meeting with the sentence, “Today we’ll be discussing such-in-such” with ‘So’? I just don’t get that.

picante's avatar

“Well” lends too much “I told you so” or “if you’d been paying attention” to anything that comes after it. I generally find it offputting in both written or oral forms, though the spoken word can be soft, diffusing a bit of its bite. “So” is often just filler in oral language—I see it as the way to start a sentence when there seems to be an odd interlude.

In writing dialog, both words could be useful; but for general narrative text, I find them distracting. So, was that what you were looking for . . . well????

tinyfaery's avatar

Well, I use them both. So, I guess they are ok with me.

glacial's avatar

So, yeah. I get what you’re saying. But, well… I also do this.

But not when I’m writing professionally.

CWOTUS's avatar

I hate it. I do it way too often, myself.

zenvelo's avatar

This is where I see the difference between e-writing (emails, Fluther posts, tweets, and on-line comment sections) and writing that is intended for a more formal publication. Most emails and other on-line writing is essentially a proxy for conversation, and this carries the informality of conversation. At least at Fluther there is a modicum of standards to keep it legible, but the tone itself is often conversational. I use “So..” and “Well” as initiating words all the time.

But in business or more formal writing, I would avoid them and not use them, because they are conversational crutches.

Sunny2's avatar

So at the beginning of any paragraph being spoken, particularly in answering a question, is very annoying. I don’t see it used that much in writing. So, I’m not sure there’s anything to do about it. Well, at least I can try not to do it myself, y’know.

burntbonez's avatar

I don’t like it. I do it, myself, but I don’t like it. It seems kind of lazy. Inappropriate.

I think you catch yourself doing it, and just delete all the words you don’t really need.

dxs's avatar

I say “well” to start off many of my posts here and many of my sentences, but only the first sentence, if my memory is correct. It doesn’t bother me, but I would think that “well” along with “so” is unacceptable in “formal writing”. When it comes to speaking, again it doesn’t really bother me. “Like” gets a bit on my nerves though. So many…like…people use…like…the word “like”....like….way too….like….much.
I once had a math teacher who said “alright” in excess. I started to keep a tally for one period of every time “alright” was said, but ended up stopping after only 20 minutes where the count was up to 83 “alright“s. A great teacher, however

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