Up until today, I was all for the casual throttling of anyone that started the response to a question with "so". I was going to implement a "so jar" at my desk. All profits to the grammar police, natch.
Q: What's new in Windows Server 2003?
A: So we took a focused look at compelling scenarios and found blah...
Or even just coming out of the blue with a "so".
Colleague: So I was working on that case...
But perhaps there's actually a method to the madness.
Consider the use of "so" in a sentence where it's actually required:
Q: Hey Barry, how did you fix that problem?
A: Well, I was looking at the network, but the network didn't seem to be a problem, and I looked at the application, but the application was fine, and then I found a KB article describing the problem, and there was a registry key that would fix it, so I applied the change from that article, and it all worked.
It's my theory that "so" typically precedes the nugget of useful information in a sentence. Sure, the first part of the answer above was probably relevant, but it's not actually what I really listen for. I mentally tune back in at the "so". So based on my experience, people are more likely to focus on the part after the "so".
"So" people tend to use "so" multiple times during a sentence, as if trying to drag my attention back to what they're saying. Which is a technique that actually seems to work on me, because it pushes all the "so"s onto a "so" stack. And for whatever reason, I can back-trace a "so" stack better than discrete but thematically connected sentences. Am I just weirdly conditioned?
So (ie, in conclusion), "So" types: do you find that people are typically more attentive when you start a sentence with "so"? Or is this just crazy talk?