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Sloppy Writing 101.45

January 11, 2013 by Suzi

I’m gonna tackle something different today. The word SO. In sentences that have 2 independent clauses that are joined by a conjunction (and, but, or, so, nor), you are supposed to use a comma. Here are a couple examples from The Proper Way to Say Goodbye.
-I’d get over my anxiety of dating a girl, and we’d be sitting in her trendy apartment sipping wine.
-He acted like he was my dad, but I had my own father who lived in California.
-I repeated their names in my head, so I wouldn’t forget again.
But one of those is wrong. The 3rd. There should be no comma before SO. And for the longest time, I put commas in sentences like these, but it felt wrong. And I didn’t know why it felt wrong, it just did. But I put the comma there cause the rule is use a comma.
And now I have figured it out. And that makes me happy. (It doesn’t take much, I guess.)
Check out these examples.
1. Sheila and Candace have a lot to say, so sometimes you just need to jump in.
2. Her teasing brought on a full blown blush, so I gave a quick wave and slipped out.
These follow the rule. You know comma before the conjunction.
Now these.
3. I’d definitely get a lottery ticket so I could buy a yacht.
4. I repeated their names in my head so I wouldn’t forget again.
Can you see the difference, and do you know why it’s different? Now I know that exception.
You don’t use a comma when the SO acts as a SO THAT. The THAT is implied most of the time, and we usually don’t see it, but you don’t use the comma.
This next explanation doesn’t come from a grammar book. It’s just what I’ve learned. And although it seems to work in my writing, there might be a time when it doesn’t.
Use the word WHY to tell the difference if you’re not sure.
I’d definitely get a lottery ticket. Why? So I could buy a yacht. (Makes sense, huh?)
Sheila and Candace have a lot to say. Why? So sometimes you just need to jump in. (Doesn’t make sense.)
So as silly as this seems, I never knew of this exception. But my intuition told me something was wrong. I guess I should’ve trusted it.


  1. Chloe Banks says:

    That is SO helpful (see what I did there?) I’ve always had this problem and never knew about that rule. I agonise over the comma before every ‘so’. Thanks!

  2. Rachel Schieffelbein says:

    Very helpful. But see, I would have been the one with the word ‘that’ in all those sentences and would have had to go through and delete those, rather than the commas. ;)

  3. Dana says:

    Great tip! I wish my students would have understood this rule. :)

  4. Thank you for the lesson. I suck at commas. And after seeing your first example with ‘and’, I’m not sure I’ve been writing using commas the right way with and. Ugh.

  5. Just Jill says:

    Bless you for tackling such a grammatical topic! Good to know. I like in Wisconsin, where, in any given conversation, it is imperitive to end each and every sentence with, “so…”.
    It just came to mind while I was reading your blog so…

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