"So!" Radio 4 listeners say stop using it to begin a sentence

"So!" Radio 4 listeners say no

So. Another year. There, I’ve done it. But not as a conjunction, but a sentence in its own right.

And while it seems like nothing at all, it’s seriously wound up enough radio 4 listeners on the Feedback programme to make it onto the main news – extract below.

So what is all the fuss? If you read the scholars and The Guardian, below, using the word ‘so', to begin your sentence may be irritating in the least, grammatically incorrect, and at worst, an aberration of the English language itself. But it is ancient, dating back to classic literature.


Fast Company claimed that its use dumbs down your subject and alienates your audience, despite Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg seemingly dropping it at every opportunity.

It’s funny to us at Mentor, partly because of the countless media training sessions with professionals who like to prefix their key statements and messaging with ‘so’.

We’ve discussed it at length and I have to admit, we try to discourage its use because it starts to sound rehearsed and formulaic.

While academics remind you of its use in Beowulf, our own evidence suggests rather common usage of “so” by university academics and health workers, specifically doctors, consultants and health service managers.

We’ve debated and discussed why this may be the case among those professionals, with university staff saying it may be a teaching device by lecturers to get students to pay attention at the start of a lecture…"So…!" everybody stop and listen.

While doctors tell us they may use the conjunction as a means to avoid saying, ‘erm, well, now then..’ It’s more decisive, definitive and perhaps offers a moment where a patient or NHS colleague tunes in to what the doctor is about to impart. I’ve heard NHS staff saying that it might fill a gap at the start of the sentence, but it does leave me thinking the doctor just said something before ‘so’ and I’ve missed something. Or it could be just a pensive, reflective thing.

So what do you think? Does it annoy you to hear a thoughtful, considered opener like, ‘so’? Do we continue to coach it out of delegates vernacular, or let it lie?

One man who acquired worldwide recognition and made millions of pounds from the word, doesn’t pepper it in interviews, and while being more entitled to use it than most, it didn’t do Peter Gabriel any harm, on worldwide sales of 12 million records for his wonderful 1986 album, ‘SO!’

Article Author: Dave Mason

Dave is Mentor Media Training's Managing Director. He is a CIPR Accredited Practitioner and regularly trains for the PR industry institute. His extensive career in broadcasting spans 30 years across radio and television. He has coached executives from major public and private sector organisations, as well as the UK Armed Forces/NATO, around the world for the past decade. Dave is respected for his inspiring training, which is supportive and concentrates on fast learning development. A founding presenter and shareholder of Somerset’s Orchard FM, he went on to work extensively in commercial radio around the UK, as well as BBC News, where he was a Correspondent at BBC Radio 5 Live and Radio 1 Newsbeat. Dave has been a TV presenter, reporter and producer at ITN, GMTV, (ITV Breakfast), ITV News Westcountry and HTV West. He was one of GMTV’s senior producers for a decade, covering major international, domestic, political and entertainment stories. His roles have included senior news producing and planning, undercover investigations, war reporting and features production. He still broadcasts as a crisis communications pundit on LBC, BBC Radio and is a visiting lecturer at the Universities of Bath Spa, Gloucestershire and the Cardiff School of Journalism. He is the author of 'Handling the Media In Good Times & Bad'.