Recently, I mentioned to my frienditor that I was thinking about a post focusing on 10 words we should all use less. “Start with ‘just,’” she recommended. “It’s the most overused word today.”
I completely agree.
Now, “just” has several definitions, but the one I’m interested in is “only” or “simply.” We use this particular meaning of the word to minimize things or excuse statements that, often, don’t really need excusing.
I do this all the time. And I know I do it! That’s why it’s all the more maddening. Consider these recent emails:
- Just checking to see if you’ve had a chance to review that article I sent.
- Just following up on this. Appreciate the help.
- Just checking in to make sure that the document on Sharepoint is ready for my review.
- Just wondering if it might merit a shout-out in our next monthly communication.
- I made just a few minor edits.
- Just my $.02.
All of these statements can be found in my Outlook sent items right now. And there’s more where these come from. Even worse, some of them are accompanied by a smiley-face emoticon. (I hate smiley-face emoticons.)
In instances 1, 2, and 3, I’m trying to apply gentle pressure. Instead of saying, “Hey, could you please get back to me with any edits on that document; the deadline is looming,” I opt for the less-threatening “just” (because I’m so intimidating). For all of you “Friends” lovers out there, this tactic reminds me of when Monica left that “breezy” message on Richard’s answering machine. I might as well add to the end of each of these, “I’m breezy!”
Then there are instances 4–6. These are much, much worse, because here I’m minimizing my own contributions. Why not say, “Here are a few edits to make this article more concise.” After all, that’s what I really mean.
Part of this comes from the culture of the firm I work at. We’re all very polite and gracious and considerate of others’ feelings. But just because we wouldn’t say, “Wow. That’s really terrible. Lucky for you I’m here to turn that into something resembling the writing of a college-educated professional,” that doesn’t mean I should suppress my opinions — opinions that come from 16 years of experience at Plante Moran.
Bottom line: that simple, four-letter word makes me sound tentative and undermines my contributions. It needs to stop. But you know what they say about old habits….
So what do you think? Do you use the word “just” in a similar manner? Do you see others doing it? Do you think it’s a gender thing? (I’ve noticed women tend to do it more than men.) Also, it’s been a while since I had any comments on this blog. “Just” throwing it out there that it’d be great if you’d leave one. I’m breezy!