07 December 2021

So what?

Following up on something Michael Bracken said recently, editors see lots of things that they hate having to fix. Me too! So, I'm going to address a little thing to keep in mind while you're polishing your work.

Do you put a comma before the word "so" in the middle of a sentence if it is separating two independent clauses? We've all learned that "so" is a conjunction, so some people apparently think the answer is always yes, you do. But that is wrong! Whether you put a comma before "so" depends on whether the word "that" is implied after it. 

The rule  

If "that" is not implied after the word "so": put a comma before it.

If "that" is implied after the word "so": don't put a comma before it.

Examples (I love examples):

  • I am having surgery on Thursday (this past Thursday as you read this), so I am writing my blog post in advance. 

I used a comma before "so" in the prior sentence because "that" wasn't implied after "so." Try to read the sentence with the word "that" after "so," and it won't make sense.

In contrast:

  • I am having surgery on Thursday so I don't scream anymore when I stand up and sit down. 

The word "that" was implied after "so." Therefore, I didn't use a comma before "so."

Wrapping up

There you go. Short and sweet. Sometimes you just need one good tip.

Note: Because of the surgery, I probably won't be around today to respond to comments, so let me just say (see what I did there?), thanks in advance for your feedback.


  1. Thank you, Barb. I can do with this kind of blog post so (that) I can improve my American English.
    I hope your recovery is faster than the doctors expect!

  2. This post is a reminder of how difficult it must be to master the finer points of American English as a second language. Or even as a first. I hope your surgery went well so (that) you can return to normal quickly. Thanks for the tip!

    1. You're welcome. (This is something I had to figure out on my own. If the topic was ever presented to me in a class, it went over my head.)

  3. I never remember this stuff anyway. Don't get me started on 'which' and 'that'. So that's why I pay an editor. =)

  4. Thanks, Barb! So my copyeditor wants me to add a comma after a sentence-initial "So" - as in this sentence. What say you?

    1. Technically, I think your copy editor (I still want that to be two words) is correct, but I often leave it off. I think it depends on the rhythm of the sentence.

  5. Very interesting, Barb. Thanks. I do use the spell and grammar check on Word, as a double-check. I almost always disagree with it on commas. I am glad to read on Facebook that your surgery went well.

  6. I may (or not) have done that intuitively, but I don't think I've previously heard the word stated. Thank you and good luck, Barb.

    Remember to stop playing soccer with bowling balls!

    Hugs and see you back as soon as you can!

  7. This is great! How about Part II... when a sentence begins with SO?

    "So you say."

    "So, when is the concert?"

    "So what?"

    1. Thanks, Frank. I usually hear that you're always supposed to have a comma after "so" at the beginning of a sentence, but I don't believe that. I think it depends on the rhythm of the sentence.


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