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Some people say since "so" is a transitional word, it should have a comma after it like all the transitional words have. And some say if "so" is there for logical continuity, then no comma should be used.

The particular sentence I am writing is:

Moreover, I have completed my senior secondary studies in English and won 1st place at the regional stage of English Olympiad. So, I am confident that I will be able to complete a degree in English.

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    (1) Very good sense to include the previous sentence. (2) 'Rules' for comma usage in English are often disputed. You can usually find someone to arrogate one and someone else of equal apparent authority who disagrees with them. (3) I'd omit the comma after 'so' here because I'd read it here without a pause (your second piece of reasoning above). That would not always be the case, though. (4) Few people would suggest dropping the comma after 'Moreover' as a pause is almost mandatory. Jan 9 '15 at 12:47
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    You might want to check the local conventions for whether 1st should be spelled out "first" :-)
    – TRomano
    Jan 9 '15 at 13:22
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    @Edwin: In OP's specific context the word so is obviously carrying quite a lot of "weight". The fact that the preceding sentence starts with moreover implies one or more additional factors have already been mentioned earlier, and since so starts a new sentence it's reasonable to assume it refers to all factors/reasons previously specified. With so much riding on the word, I would expect a pause/comma to help it stand out. Jan 9 '15 at 13:23
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    @FF We'll have to let the Admissions Board decide: if they make a fuss, I'll choose a different establishment. (Neither is 'wrong', I'm sure we agree.) Jan 9 '15 at 13:29
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    @Edwin: Absolutely. At least in OP's case no-one is likely to complain about the presence of the word so itself, regardless of whether it's set off by a comma or not. What gets on my nerves is the modern habit of starting a discourse with the word. Practically every day here on ELU we get a question starting with something like "So I was wondering about [some question]". I'm always inclined to think "So what?", since there's no preceding text for the word to reference. Jan 9 '15 at 13:41
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Some people say since "so" is a transitional word…

There aren't traditional words, there are traditional senses. Compare:

Mix all of these ingredients together. Next, add the milk.

I love Firefly. Next to Twin Peaks it is my favourite programme.

I've deliberately picked a different "transitional word" to hopefully make it easier to see the point if you're perhaps over-thinking so.

In the first case here, next is indeed in a transitional sense—it serves to introduce the next sentence while also stating they are in a temporal order—and the comma makes sense.

In the second case next is not doing this transitional job, but telling us something about how the topic of discussion (Firefly) relates to another thing (Twin Peaks) in the writer's opinion. We don't want to separate it from the to; what would the now separated "to Twin Peaks it is…" even mean?

So, back to so.

So's transitional sense is "used after a pause for thought to introduce a new topic, question or story." In this sense you can remove it and not really lose much meaning, though might you lose impact. If you want your sentence to mean "I am confident that …" but with so serving this introductory role, then the comma might be a good idea for that reason. (It might also be a good idea to just cut it, but that's another matter).

Another sense of so is "therefore" or "with the result that". If you want so to say that the studies you mention in the previous sentence (along, perhaps, with earlier statements) is the reason why you have this confidence, then the comma is probably a bad idea.

I imagine you want the second of these two readings, and I'd therefore recommend that you don't use a comma.

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  • Hey. Thanks for all the help. I was wondering if I use so to connect those sentences; would it be right? Then the sentence would be: "Moreover, I have completed my senior secondary studies in English and won 1st place at the regional stage of English Olympiad, so I am confident that I will be able to complete a degree in English." But then I feel that "so" and the sentence after it is only referring to information before it in the same sentence and not the information which is before the sentence in the paragraph. What do I do? I'm really confused.
    – Manan Jain
    Jan 10 '15 at 10:58
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I would leave the comma out: if the two sentences were written as a single sentence, there would be no comma: "Moreover, I have completed my senior secondary studies in English and won 1st place at the regional stage of English Olympiad, so I am confident that I will be able to complete a degree in English." This is fairly formal English.

I'd reserve commas after so only when so seems to come out of nowhere: "So, are you coming or not?" A woman walks into the living room and asks, "So, how do you like my new dress?" This is hardly formal English.

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