What is meta? ×
Meta Stack Exchange is where users like you discuss bugs, features, and support issues that affect the software powering all 128 Stack Exchange communities.

So, I feel I may be a bit pedantic here. Am I the only one who gets irritated by the hundreds of questions that start with the completely redundant "so"?

"So I have this problem", says one.

"So this library may have a bug", says another.

"So this code is giving an error", a third user might ask. Why? I want to ask back. Isn't "this code is giving an error" clear enough? What does the "so" add?

I always feel compelled to edit out the "so", but then feel I am being obsessive, maybe even offensive. So what? I ask myself. These people are engineers; redundancy is built into their psyche. I resist the urge and let the "so" go.

But no more. I need to ask.

So, here goes: what do you think? Does starting my questions with "so" make me a sloppy so-and-so, or is it a hidden tribute to the capital SO, our beloved Stack Overflow? :)

And so?

18 hours ago, I posted this with fingers crossed. I hoped people would see the humour in it and it wouldn't earn me the ire of my peers. I am grateful that so many took it seriously or gently, saw the humour, and joined in. Thank you.

I realise that this question cannot have a definitive answer, hence I will +1 those who responded, but I will not tick a specific one, I will let the community do that with their votes. Some conclusions are possible, nonetheless:

  • in these 18 hours, this post itself got 23 up-votes and nine down. That tells me there is a sizeable minority who would get irritated with micro-edits of this nature and it would be counterproductive to press on an issue like this since it could be divisive;
  • while answers agree that there is needless redundancy in this usage of the word "so", they also agree that the ugliness of "so" is in the eye of the beholder and they would only edit it if it was part of a more comprehensive (and therefore overall more helpful) edit.

Parting thoughts

  • My lesson: leave "so" alone unless as part of a question overhaul.
  • My secret wish: that this question and discussion might prompt some to self-edit and voluntarily adopt a more correct style. I would so love to see the back of the leading "so" but I agree it is wiser to let it just slink away on its own.
share|improve this question
7  
Agreed, starting anything with "so" is annoying. It's bad enough when people do it with questions, but I find it really irritating when they do it at the beginning of public speeches. Nothing wrong with editing it out. Surely while you're in there, you can find a few other things to fix as well. –  Cody Gray Mar 30 '13 at 0:07
18  
2  
Thanks @Shog9, if only for that link, it was worth asking the question :) –  gauden Mar 30 '13 at 0:10
3  
try searching for "my question is" and you'll get a whole new pet peeve :-) –  Kate Gregory Mar 30 '13 at 2:25
7  
So SO "so"s are so SO. (so Stack Overflow "so"s are so Stack Overflow) :P –  Doorknob Mar 30 '13 at 2:38
2  
This or something extremely similar was asked last year sometime, and I posted an answer that I remember being please with, but it was closed as Not Constructive and deleted, and I can't find it. –  Josh Caswell Mar 30 '13 at 8:15
    
@JoshCaswell -- if you remembered the gist of your answer, feel free to post it here, "so" all voices can be heard :) I promise to stop making these "so" jokes soon. –  gauden Mar 30 '13 at 9:43
1  
Beginning a question with 'so' is similar to starting a question with 'but', or an answer with 'well'. It's more irritating than it is inconvenient –  davblayn Mar 30 '13 at 10:03
2  
I once came across this user who would start every single one of his posts and comments with the word "So". EVERY SINGLE ONE. And English wasn't even his native or primary language, which only made it worse. –  BoltClock's a Unicorn Mar 30 '13 at 10:24
1  
@josh: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/126573/… –  Shog9 Mar 30 '13 at 15:27
    
Yes! Thanks, @Shog. –  Josh Caswell Mar 30 '13 at 17:04
2  
+1 for raising this, just because my undiagnosed OCD spots it too. Not as annoyingly redundant as "Please help me", but pretty close. I manage to restrain myself from editing if this is the only error, but its presence will usually mean there's a handful of case errors to be corrected too (which in turn is sufficient trigger for me to edit). –  halfer Mar 30 '13 at 22:03

7 Answers 7

Yeah, most questions don't need "so" in the title or question itself, but I wouldn't edit it out if that was the only problem.

share|improve this answer
1  
^ this. I will remove it if I am already editing for some other reason. –  Chris Apr 1 '13 at 14:44

As long as it isn't ungrammatical or adversely affecting comprehensibility, my MO is to leave it alone. I tend to shy away from making edits based on judgements of style, because some people are pretty touchy about being corrected unless you have good reason.

You have to realise that this is only annoying you because you've read a lot of questions beginning with "so". Unless the word is being repeated several times within the same question, an individual OP isn't at fault.

So, long story short: yes a fraction of the sentence doesn't add anything to the question; no you probably shouldn't edit unless it was packaged with broader changes to improve readability. Choice of phrasing isn't our business unless it obscures what the author means.

share|improve this answer

Because people who don't write well often write the way they talk. They do things like start sentences with conjunctions, conjugating their verbs wrong, using adjectives like adverbs, making unclear phrasings, and using transitional words that aren't necessary in written language.

It bugs me, too, so I say just hit that "edit" button and clean it up. Don't forget to take a pass at everything else that can be fixed, though, so the post is left substantially better. One little verbal tic isn't really worth so much worry.

Resurrected from http://meta.stackexchange.com/a/126575/

share|improve this answer
    
+1 for the resurrected answer, Josh. And I would add we need to take all our pet peeves with a little humour too. –  gauden Mar 30 '13 at 18:20
1  
Yes, @dystroy's answer is really the more explicit version of my opinion. I was just pleased with my grammatical gambits, however minor they are. –  Josh Caswell Mar 30 '13 at 18:21

One point seems to be lacking in your analysis: many users aren't good English writers. I know I'm not.

When you feel your sentences are strange, hard, and lack the roundness and fluency that you see in the texts you read, and you'd like them to look more native, then you take oral forms that are more familiar. And, as a kind of introduction, you have this "So" which marks the start of your intervention, just like when you start to speak and clearing your throat helps launching the movement of your discourse. "So", which normally refers to an already-mentioned context, takes also here the place of an introduction you don't know how to make with eloquence in a few words. Slightly similar to this is the "Well" with which I know I start far too many of my comments. They're totally useless, bring no meaning, and are irritating.

As someone who likes to learn, which should be the most common quality in there, I love to be corrected. I know I'll pay attention if somebody who feels confident about it fixes the grammatical mess that is my question or my answer. That's why I think fixing those minor errors might be a valuable edit, especially when doing so would have a chance of broadcasting a message to other readers.

And as a learning reader, I'd prefer to read correctly written questions, which makes one more reason for this edit.

This being said, minor edits are a pain, especially on a badly asked question in its first few minutes: they break the flow of editions and they make people refresh the question. Don't make this edit if it seems probable that other editors might be editing. And of course don't make this kind of edit if you don't have enough reputation to bypass reviewers.

share|improve this answer
2  
+1 for your open attitude! :) –  gauden Mar 30 '13 at 7:54
    
Still no edit ? Go on, I'm sure I made a few grammatical errors... –  dystroy Mar 30 '13 at 20:21
2  
+1 for attempting to understand the purpose of an introductory 'so' - it may be redundant, but the analysis is intriguing. –  halfer Mar 30 '13 at 22:05
1  
Since you prompted for it in your comment, @dystroy, I've made just a few grammatical fixes to your post. I must say, however, that I find some of what you might see as non-native weak phrasings to be intriguing and enjoyable to read. Your second paragraph, particularly the first sentence, has a very appealing kind of lilt. –  Josh Caswell Mar 31 '13 at 19:20
    
"just like when you start to speak and clearing your throat helps launching the movement of your discourse" Not to discourage you, but this is also a very bad public speaking habit. Lots of people find it just as annoying as starting sentences with "So..." I agree with your analysis that the two are related, but both need to be squashed like bugs. –  Cody Gray Apr 2 '13 at 3:34

It's become a common way of introducing an element, comment or question. In itself, it's hardly the most challenging issue on SO. I can cite far more worrying issues, but I remove it if I'm editing - along with Like, well, see, yeah etc.

Whilst many of us are sticklers for grammar, punctuation and spelling (I find myself correcting spelling/titles/words on a near daily basis), I'll overlook it in favour of more important elements.

It's ironic isn't it - We're in an age of such intellectual growth and progress, yet now we have people (usually younger) removing vowels from words on a daily basis because they can't be bothered - but starting a sentence with "So" isn't so bad.

share|improve this answer
    
I so hate it when people use 'U' 'B4' and such nonsense when they have a full keyboard in front of them and way more than a 160 character limit. –  ɥʇǝS Mar 30 '13 at 3:21
    
B4, Thx, WUU2, L8r - it gets worse! –  nickhar Mar 30 '13 at 3:24
    
@Seth Y u h8n m8? –  Asad Mar 30 '13 at 3:36
6  
@Asad - Expounding with exemplary ennunciation through complete communication contrary to common colloquialisms engenders an individual imperative to eschew obfuscation –  hbdgaf Mar 30 '13 at 3:57

I really don't think it's needed in the question.

The dictionary says:

...in a manner or way indicated or suggested —often used as a substitute for a preceding clause [are you ready? I think so] [I didn't like it and I told her so]

From that I gather the phrase "so" is usually used in reference to something already discussed, and, IMO, doesn't add anything to the question and should be removed.

So that is how I feel about "so".

I currently can't think of any scenario where the "so" would be a useful addition to the question. Maybe someone else can.

share|improve this answer

I think it's just that many people at StackOverflow start a question by politely addressing their audience.

share|improve this answer
    
Hmm, a post with some amount of humour can not be answered with a bit of humour? –  Gert Arnold Mar 31 '13 at 22:50
    
+1 for the riposte :) –  gauden Apr 1 '13 at 15:49

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .