In this series of posts, I’ll respond to questions about all things editing. I recently received the following e-mail:
In an assignment to correct sentence fragments and run-on sentences, my third grader wrote, ‘The crow believed what the fox had said, so she decided to sing for him.’ Her teacher corrected it to, ‘The crow believed what the fox had said. So, she decided to sing for him.’ What level of umbrage do you feel is appropriate? I’m having trouble finding a rule to cite, but at the very least prefer the uncorrected version.
I also had trouble finding a rule to cite. It’s tricky because “so” can be used as both a conjunction and an adverb to mean “therefore.” When used as a coordinating conjunction, as in the daughter’s example, a comma is used to join the independent clauses. When used as a conjunctive adverb, as the teacher has done, a semicolon or period is used.
I wish I could provide a more clear-cut answer. If my fellow editors have any insight to share, please do! (For the record, I prefer the daughter’s sentence as well.)