“I need a minute of your time.”
Some would say the former was more polite and the latter somewhat brusque or demanding. Ellen Petry Leanse, a former Google executive, has a different take after noticing how often the word “just” was getting used in the workplace.
I just wanted to check in on …
Just wondering if you’d decided between …
If you can just give me an answer, then …
I’m just following up on …
“I am all about respectful communication. Yet I began to notice that ‘just’ wasn’t about being polite: It was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous,” Leanse wrote in this post on Business Insider.
“As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”
Direct writing works best for blogs. Adding words like “just” can dilute the power of your statements.
Not always wrong
Sometimes the word can be justified. A few examples:
Look, I’m cold, I’m wet, and I’m just plain scared!* (This works because “just plain…” is U.S. vernacular.)
Just say no. (As though it were that simple, right?)
’Cause I’m just a girl, a little ol’ me/Well don’t let me out of your sight/Oh I’m just a girl, all pretty and petite/So don’t let me have any rights. (The lyricists are twigging societal dismissiveness.)
I just got here. (As in, “only a moment ago.”)
Plenty of others exist, but I’m just going to use these few. And that’s “just” as in “only.”
Now consider this sentence:
I’m just tired of all this snow.
In this case, “just” is a synonym for “simply.” In my opinion, “simply” works better because “just” sounds a bit whiny. On the other hand, a blogger could write “I’m tired of all this snow” and be done with it: a simple, direct statement.
Personally I’d suggest a somewhat stronger statement, e.g., one with an interesting fact and/or a strongly worded statement: “In six weeks we’ve gotten more snow than we did in the last three years combined – and none of it has melted. I’m done with winter, except that I’m not: Spring is still two months away.”
But often wrong-headed
“Just” does its worst when it negates your authority. Leanse calls it a “child” word, one that positions the other person as a parent. This grants “more authority and control” over the speaker, she says.
A blogger risks undermining his or her writing with a sentence like this one:
That’s just my opinion.
If this is your blog, we already know it’s your opinion. Including “that’s just my opinion” could come across as, “That’s what I think but I could be wrong” or, worse, “Maybe I’m really dumb for thinking this, but…”
Don’t apologize for your thoughts. Don’t mute the power of your words. Don’t give the trolls a toehold, either.
*Bonus points to those who recognized this as a line from “The Rocky Horror Picture Show.”