Want to write a better essay? Cut out “so”

Want to know how to write an essay? It’s all about sounding authoritative.

Unfortunately, writing authoritatively and actually doing it are two different things entirely. Writing is a craft that can take years to master—if it can be mastered at all—and is so subjective that what you consider an authoritative piece of writing is absolute trash to somebody else.

However, there are a few tricks I’ve picked up over my years of writing and editing that can make 99 per cent of all writing more authoritative. The best of these tricks are the simplest, and can take just a few extra minutes to apply.

One such example is the use of the word “so”. Or, rather, the lack the use of the word “so”.

What happens when you remove “so”?

Quickly scan back through what you’ve read so far. Count the number of times the word “so” appears. Not too many, is it? That’s because this is intended as an authoritative piece of writing—I want you to believe me, and accept what I’m saying—and adding the word “so” at the start of sentences would detract from that.

Consider the difference between the following:

Writing is completely subjective, and often what you think is great, is terrible to others.

So that’s why you’ll see writing tips that are in complete contradiction to each other.

and

Writing is completely subjective, and often what you think is great, is terrible to others.

That’s why you’ll see writing tips that are in complete contradiction to each other.

Notice the difference? The first sounds a lot more casual. While that has its place in some kinds of writing, it doesn’t when you’re trying to make a strong point. The second sentence dives right in; it’s stating a fact, not trying to have a conversation.

Once you’ve finished typing your essay, article or presentation up, go back through and remove every instance of the word “so” at the start of a phrase or sentence. The cutting of this single word can be the difference between a convincing statement and a chatty observation.

When should you use “so”?

That doesn’t mean that “so” should never be used. It does have the benefit of making your writing more accessible.

Were you to write something complex for an audience that might not know much about it, using “so” signposts the important content and helps to create a “trail” for them to follow through the article.

It’s all about who you’re writing for; using “so” with novices on a subject is great, but with experienced people, it may simply come across as condescending or, even worse, amateurish.

So, if you want to create a piece that draws the reader into an explorative article, use “so”. If you just want to convince them of facts, such as in an essay, leave it out.

Simple.

Writers are only as good as their editors. Get in touch with us today to take advantage of our years of experience.

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