You may not realize that you do it until you've watched a recording of yourself presenting. Or possibly a listener has mentioned it as he or she watched you rehearse. Perhaps you've noticed that, like a dripping faucet and just as irritating, you've begun to say "so" at the start of almost every utterance. Maybe you're among those who cringe in irritation every time they hear an interviewer, respondent, newscaster, or other speaker preface too many comments or questions with "so."

It's the newest filler, one that in the last few years has risen to ubiquity ... and, for many listeners, iniquity.


The problem with starting a string of sentences with "so" is that pointless repetition bores, distracts, and/or annoys listeners. That's a bad outcome, one that not only diminishes the strength of your messages but may render them indiscernible. Holding audience attention is often a challenge. An effective method of meeting that challenge is by varying your patterns of diction, rhythm, volume, and silence.

In a presentation, use a range of sentence patterns, phrases, and transitions—just as you would in a document. Would you begin every sentence in a report or proposal with the same word or phrase? No. Demonstrate that same variety in your presentations both to hold attention and to indicate relationships between ideas.


The word "so" implies a causal connection or degree of certainty that the content of the sentence or of those preceding it must support. Beginning with "so" may point listeners in a direction you don't intend, especially if they associate "so" with its synonyms "consequently," "thus," "accordingly," and "therefore," all of which indicate causality or certitude.

Those synonymous meanings become clear when you think of "so" as a connector, as a conjunction that not only joins sentences or clauses but shows the relationship between them: "We've completed the draft agenda, so we need your response to its action items before we finalize it." In that sentence, "so" is used to link and emphasize the completion of the draft to its consequence—the need for a response.

Contrast that sentence to this one: "So we've completed the draft agenda, and we need your response to its action items before we finalize it." This second version adds the word "and," a connector that does not indicate causality or emphasize the need for a response. Using connectors to show the intended relationship between ideas clarifies messages.


Repeated initial use of "so" may also affect your tone—the general attitude you demonstrate toward subject, audience, and self. It needs to be consciously constructed through such elements as the level of formality you use in a presentation. A tone more formal than the occasion and purpose warrant may make you seem stiff and distant; a very informal tone may create the opposite impression, one of carelessness, disrespect, or obliviousness. It's not likely that either extreme will encourage listeners to accept your messages.

Treat your words as you treat all aspects of delivery—as opportunities to enhance and strengthen your credibility.

There you have it. Or you will.