Two Tips for Curing the “Trailing So…”

Americans find the word “whatever” annoying.

They find it way more annoying than the phrase “you know” and “it is what it is.”

This factoid comes courtesy of USA Today, as quoted in a recent Marist Poll.


As for me, I have trouble with another pervasive verbal tic.

I call it “The Trailing So.”

Ending Sentences with SOYou might hear “The Trailing So…” in interviews and Q&A sessions. Someone asks a question. The subject answers, but instead of ending the sentence in a period, he or she ends with “so…”

You can actually hear the ellipses after the trailing so! For example:

Question: “How did it feel to come back to Michigan after living in Hawaii?”
Answer: “Hawaii is great – beautiful weather. I like the change of seasons in Michigan, though. So…”

The “trailing so” signals a weak answer, or that the interviewee is too bored to complete the thought to a satisfying conclusion. It’s often a sign that the mouth has started chattering before the brain has had time to think through the answer!

How to cure the trailing so. The first step to finding a cure for the trailing so is to become aware of it. If you find yourself ending a sentence in a trailing so, there are two common situations for why you might have let this verbal tic slip.

1. Habitual Offender. If you find that you’re a repeat “trailing so” offender, it’s likely that you have become accustomed to hearing it, and unconsciously let this sloppy habit slip into your vernacular. You’ll do well to take a moment or two to think through your answer to completion before activating your voice. Taking these silent moments can make you look more thoughtful and reflective. It sure beats babbling around in circles while you try to figure out how you’re going to end your statement!

2. Bored or Tired. Let’s say you’re giving an answer, and find to your horror, that you’ve ended with a trailing so. This is so unlike you, and you’re mortified! You may have done so because you lost interest in your own idea halfway through your statement. Or you may simply be exhausted. At this point, snap awake and firmly state this phrase “Let me summarize!” After you say, “Let me summarize” – quickly and strongly finish your statement as quickly as possible.

For example, “Hawaii is great – beautiful weather. I like the change of seasons in Michigan, though. So…Let me summarize! I’m enjoying the difference!”

The best cure, of course, is to be aware of the trailing so — and to avoid it by thinking through your statement before speaking.

What’s your cure for pervasive verbal tics you find annoying?