A Final Word on “So”

When so means “so that” or “in order that” and implies the reason for doing something, it starts a dependent clause. That clause takes punctuation depending upon where it is in the sentence.

When it is at the end, it takes no punctuation.

…We called late in the day so we could tell her the news.
…We went through San Diego on our way to Yuma so we could have lunch with him.
…I went to the bank so I could cash my check.

When it is in the middle, it is surrounded by commas.

…She was walking, so she could go to work, toward her car that was parked on the street in front of the house.
…I decided to call, so I could give him the news firsthand, on my iPhone rather than wait until I got home.

Happy punctuating!

Margie

Comments 4

  1. Hi Margie,

    I’m interested to know your thoughts on what to do with So at the beginning of a sentence. “So what did you do when you got there?”
    I work with some reporters that prefer a comma after so and some reporters that do not like a comma after so. Which is the correct position?

    1. Post
      Author

      Because it is just one syllable, it never takes a single comma after it. There could be a comma there because it is part of a pair, but it never takes just one.

      …So did you see her there?
      …So, Ms. Johnson, did you see her there?

      Hope this helps.

  2. I am confused about the rule in regard to “so” in a sentence. I was recently told that one does not place a comma before “so” with two independent statements in one sentence. This goes against everything I see in print and what I learned in school 30+ years ago. Is it only a transcript/court reporting rule that a sentence with “so” must be its own sentence, separated by a period from the previous sentence?

    Example: I saw the manager as he was bending over to get some ice for a container, so I did not see his name tag. I never saw him again that night, so I cannot tell you his name.

    From what I’ve recently been told, the “so” statements would be on their own, as such: I saw the manager as he was bending over to get some ice for the container. So I did not see his name tag. I never saw him again that night. So I cannot tell you his name.

    I may even have been told to leave them in the middle of the sentence but without any commas: I saw the manager as he was bending over to get some ice for a container so I did not see his name tag. I never saw him again that night so I cannot tell you his name.

    Which is correct for general purposes and/or for court reporting purposes?

    (For my purposes, I am editing a customer report, not a transcript. It is for that reason that I am wondering if this “so” rule is in general or just for transcript/court reporting purposes.)

    1. Post
      Author

      Hi.

      I am sorry for the late response. I have not been active on my blog page for the past couple of months.

      The word “so” is a conjunctive adverb when it means “therefore.” A conjunctive adverb begins a new sentence. Therefore, it is correct to use a semicolon or a period in front of it.

      There is a lot of misinformation about this word. It is not like “and” and “or.” It is not the same kind of conjunction. And this is not just about court reporting. It is the way the word works in English.

      For more explanation, you can refer to the opening chapters of my book, “CR: Bad Grammar/Good Punctuation.”

      Hope this helps.

      Happy punctuating!
      Margie

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