Haven’t Read This Yet? So Therefore You Mightn’t Know about This Error
by Owen Fourie
Ants are good, but not when they invade your house. That’s when you have to do something about the intrusion.
Your method could be controversial, so therefore I’ll not discuss it here.
Ouch! An invasion of ants is a problem, but so is an invasion of “so therefore” in speech and writing.
It’s everywhere. Search for this phrase on the Web, and you’ll see.
On Facebook and Pinterest, you’ll find pages with “so therefore” in their titles. You’ll see it in news items. It’s a plague of poor usage. Is it new? No.
In my 1977 copy of the New American Standard Bible, Luke 14:33 begins, “So therefore, no one of you …” Wow! It’s in the Bible, so it has to be right, right? No!
So, what’s the problem? Consider these two words separately and then together.
The word so can be used as various parts of speech.
- As an adverb: The ants were so persistent that we had to act quickly.
- As an adjective: I wouldn’t be telling you this if it weren’t so.
- As a conjunction: The ants persisted in their invasion, so we applied our new strategy to get rid of them.
- As a pronoun: The ants became a defeated foe and continued so for the rest of the summer.
- As an interjection: So! We have triumphed over the ants.
Therefore is an adverb that is used to join independent clauses. For this reason, it is called an adverbial conjunction or a conjunctive adverb.
It usually needs a semicolon before it and a comma after it. This also applies to other words of this kind, such as accordingly, consequently, hence, however, moreover, and nevertheless.
The ants persisted in their invasion; therefore, we applied our new strategy to get rid of them.
If the independent clauses joined by these words are short, commas should be sufficient. Imagine a fire ant saying to itself,
I maraud, therefore, I am.
Note, too, that in formal writing, when so or therefore are used as conjunctions, don’t place them at the beginning of a sentence. Therefore is the preferred sentence connector in formal use.
The burden of this article is the use of “so therefore” to join independent clauses. In such usage, so is a coordinating conjunction and therefore is an adverbial conjunction.
Our method for getting rid of the ants could be controversial, so therefore I shall not discuss it here.
You cannot do this. Each word has a conjunctive function. Putting them together makes one of them redundant. Either use so or use therefore and note the difference in punctuation.
- Our method for getting rid of the ants could be controversial, so I shall not discuss it here.
- Our method for getting rid of the ants could be controversial; therefore, I shall not discuss it here.
Using “so therefore” together to join independent clauses really amounts to a display of grammatical ignorance.
As The Gregg Reference Manual points out, “So as a conjunction means ‘therefore’ …” [Sabin, William A. The Gregg Reference Manual. Fifth ed. New York: Gregg Division/McGraw Hill, 1977. Print. p.224]
If you use “so therefore”, you are actually saying “so so” or “therefore therefore”—a pointless usage.
If a comma is placed between so and therefore, could this be acceptable usage? Perhaps.
The ants are relenting; so, therefore, must we.
Do so and therefore have different meanings when a comma separates them?
The ants are relenting; likewise [so], and for this reason [therefore], must we.
“So therefore” as standard usage?
Will “so therefore” become standard usage?
An obvious error should not be accepted as a standard to follow, but when the title and text of a major work1 unwittingly endorses the error, does correct usage matter any longer?
It does. Take care, therefore, to avoid “so therefore” in your formal writing and speaking.
1. Ruscio, Al. So Therefore: A Practical Guide for Actors. London: Routledge, 2012. Print.
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