Grammar

Are You Starting Sentences with Look? Please Stop!

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In a Facebook group about grammar, someone asked about politicians who are constantly starting sentences with look. It’s a pet peeve of mine!

There are several politicians and other notable people who are always starting sentences with look. I suppose it’s a little better than starting every answer with so.

But let’s be clear: Both can be maddening.

The original poster asked an interesting question. Since we’re talking about the spoken word, shouldn’t they use the word listen instead of look?

I offered my take, saying neither was correct.

Constantly beginning a sentence with either look or listen amounts to just using a crutch word for no good reason. Start the sentence with whatever immediately follows the offending word.

Someone immediately defended starting sentences with look or listen. She said that in public speaking, such “crutch words” can be “very useful in preventing people from tuning out from tedium.”

I can certainly imagine scenarios where a speaker would want to emphasize certain portions of a speech. But that generally happens toward the end of a passage where the speaker is about to make an important point. By all means, you can certainly validly emphasize such points.

That’s not what we’re talking about. We hear it every day on news programs. People begin the first sentence in answer to the first question with look. They haven’t reached a point worth ephasizing. Look (or listen) is only the first syllable they utter.

So I gave my response to the whole “preventing people from tuning out” suggestion:

“Perhaps that’s an indication that the speaker should work more energy into the speech rather than inserting meaningless words that become so overused to cause more annoyance than attention.”

That’s my take, at least. Do you finding it annoying when the first word of sentence after sentence is either look or listen?

4 Comments

  1. I was only kiddin’ ’round. 🙂 One who feels the need to tell me to look or listen most every time they speak must either be insecure in themselves or think I’m not paying attention. The joke is that, if they overuse it, I will certainly stop looking, or listening, as the case may be.

  2. Yikes! You used the phrase, “…let’s be clear” to make your case against using “look” or “listen”? Do all three of those not have the same effect? While our current president uses “look” much too often, I remember another president who would start with “Let me make this perfectly clear” (which usually meant he was about to muddy the truth). The phrase that drives me nuts, though, is “that being said.” After the “look” (“Hey, Dummy, try to follow what I’m saying here”) explanation has been completed, “that being said” is the same as saying “BUT.” I agree that we should stop look and listen. (that being said) Before I cross the street, I always stop, look, and listen. It’s best to beware.

    1. “Let’s be clear” can certainly have a similar effect.

      But the difference is I’m not starting every paragraph with it. The folks I’m writing about insist on using “look” or “listen” multiple times in the same short conversation.

      And I used my “let’s be clear” after the conversation had begun, not at the very start.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 30 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.