Slice of Life: Just a Word

Last Saturday night we sat outside, under heaters, eating dinner. Talking.

We had an entire conversation about a word.

“The word ‘just’ needs to be eliminated from our language,” my husband proclaimed. “It minimizes what matters and excuses behavior.”

I knew what he meant. He was thinking of all the ways people use the word to lessen their presence, to elude detection.


  • I just forgot.
  • It’s just 20 copies.
  • I’ll be just a minute.

I’ve been thinking about this.

Just can hide. Muffle meaning. Out of subterfuge, embarrassment, or modesty, just can minimize a message.  We have to be careful.

There is a place for just. There are times for its subtlety. Just can soften. Downgrade tension, diminish anxiety. “It’s just to see what we need to work on.” Just can open up a conversation. “I just called to say…” Make a definitive order more palatable. Think of how far “Just do it!” took non-athletes. And what would we do without “This is Just to Say.” 

I’m for noticing. For being alert. For care and understanding of words, for just the right moment.


Thank you to Two Writing Teachers for Slice of Life Tuesdays. Read more slices here.



19 thoughts on “Slice of Life: Just a Word

  1. That is a common conversation amongst women freelancers I work with. Many are working to eliminate it when they request information from editors etc. “I’m just checking in.” In fact there is a new software add-on that detects words like that to help you be more purposeful and less meek in your writing.

  2. Ooohhh!!! I’d never thought about the word “just”. Hmmm! I want the word “deserve” eliminated. Who is to say who deserves what? I have deleted that word from my vocabulary. It makes me think…maybe we all have a word we have strong feelings about!

  3. I love what Kimberley said: “less meek in your writing.” But I think we women need to be less meek overall… I loved your slice. Thoughtful. Succinct. Urging mindfulness while speaking. Loved it.

  4. I read in a book for writers that you should eliminate “Just” and then I read John Green’s Fault in Our Stars. On a single two page spread he had “just” 5 times. If John Green can do it,…? Maybe I should just do a search and find in my current WIP, just in case.

  5. What an interesting conversation examining just from all those different angles. Perhaps you would be interested in reading the Consolations of Everyday Words by David Whyte. Your post brought his book to mind.

  6. This demonstrates the power of words and the effect of one single word. (I wanted to say just one word 🙂 ) I will have to be more conscious of using “just.”

  7. It is a word that I’ve read MUST be taken from writing, like Nancy Attwell’s list of bad words. Yet, you’ve made good points on the other side, too, Julieanne, for its value. People tend to soften what they say with “just” or “mostly”, etc., instead of being sure of the opinion. Love that you had the conversation and then shared with us, too.

  8. Besides that incredible poem, the word just needs to be eradicated. It is one of 12 words I’ve been working on deleting from my writing when I edit. It is rare that it is needed.

  9. I try not to use “just”in my writing, but as you know my blogging started from a decision to blog “just for a month.” I guess it depends where, when and why you use the word. It exists for a reason.

  10. I remember Lucy Caulkins the first time I ever heard her speak mention our use of the word, “JUST”. She said we always seem to put it before the really important stuff. “I’m JUST a teacher” for example. This has made me aware of the times I hear the word as well. Would love to do more thinking along these lines.

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