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Discourse Markers

So, have you ever wondered whether it’s allowable to start a sentence with a meaningless word such as so, hey, oh, well, or umm? Wonder no more!


  • And I never thought I would see you admit to making a spelling mistake.
  • But you never told me that sentence was incorrect.
  • Or I could pretend that it never happened.


These words are called discourse markers, and local versions of so, umm, and oh form a part of everyone’s vocabulary, all over the world. The incorrect examples above are not wrong because they are conjunctions; they are wrong because they don’t set apart the following sentence. A discourse marker calls attention to the speaker, prepares the speaker to begin a sentence, and makes the listener look directly at the speaker. In written works, it signifies casual speech, regionalisms, and can substitute for the vocative (direct address) case, as in “Bill, come here.”


You know, no single society in the world will ever stop using discourse markers. After all, they serve a powerful social purpose. You see, we would struggle to continue through life without a little preparation at the beginning of each sentence. I mean, as irritating as this paragraph is to read, the irritation comes from reading too many of them in a row. So, did that make sense?

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