When I was a kid and said “So…?” to a grownup, I would usually get the response “Sew buttons on your underwear!” It felt like a stinging criticism of my use of the word instead of a response to what I thought was a legitimate question.
Now I’m a communications coach working with people on their speaking skills and a common point of feedback has been about the repetitive use of “so” at the beginning of sentences and phrases.
It’s a distracting pattern and diminishes your audience’s ability to maintain attention. I also think it makes for lazy language. So I’ve been suggesting speakers cut down on the use of “so.” (Yes, I do realize I used it at the beginning and end of this sentence, for dramatic effect!)
In a recent commentary for “Fresh Air” on NPR, American linguist Geoff Nunberg wonders “What’s the Big Deal…?” He does a wonderful job giving the history of this little word that has risen to widespread use by “the explaining classes,” those experts, analysts, and pundits who now fill up all the air time trying to tell the rest of us what is going on in the world and why.
Nunberg is not overly concerned about the overuse of “so.” It’s comforting to know civilization is not at risk here.
However, I would suggest that you may want to pay attention to any words you use repeatedly in your presentations. When your audience starts noticing how often you say a word, including fillers like “uh’s” and “um’s,” they stop listening to what you are saying and start counting those words. You, the speaker, will minimize your impact and your opportunities for positive outcomes from your communication.
Make it easy for your audience to hear what you have to say. So, it’s all about them!