Why You Should Stop Using the Word "Just"

“I’m just a teacher.” “I’m just a secretary.” “I’m just a nurse.” “I’m just a stay-at-home mother.”

This common use of “just” as a qualifier to one’s profession needs to stop — particularly in women’s vocabulary.

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Who says 'just' the most?


The word “just” was the subject of a July 2014 piece by Ellen Leanse on women 2.0. She observed that people — primarily women — use it to soften their requests or hedge their comments in the workplace. Leanse noted the overuse of the word “just” while she was working at the Silicon Valley tech strategic communications agency Eastwick.

Leanse informally tallied who was saying it and why. She surmised that the word wasn’t about being respectful; it was about being subordinate. She proposed an end to the use of “just” at Eastwick, and the rest of the company was eager to adopt her suggestion, she said.

She took her inquiry to the outside world, where she surveyed the number of women versus men who used the word “just” in a room of young entrepreneurs. The result? She found in her small, impromptu study that women are more likely to use the word “just.”

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The phrases “Just checking in” and “just following up” undercut assertive expression and reveal a lack confidence. To avoid the appearance of subordinating your language, omit “just” from your sentences.

But the word is hard to kick to the curb. It’s ingrained in many young women’s vocabularies, akin to “like” and “um” and “sorry.”

The reward of eliminating the "J" word is great: a more clear, confident, and active voice.

While we’re arguing “just” into extinction, let's stop downgrading our jobs by using “just” before our titles. Teachers are not "just teachers." They are influential members of the workforce. So are secretaries, nurses, stay-at-home parents, and dental hygienists.

Do you belittle your job by using the word “just”? Don't: Your work matters.

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