Posted by: Jack Henry | November 1, 2018

Editor’s Corner: Just, and Other Weak Words

Dear Editrix,

The word just seems like an overused worthless word. Every time I see it in a sentence, I remove it. I think someone told me once that it was an apologetic word used to gain sympathy. So, what kind of word is just?


Dear RK,
You’re right, just can be overused and worthless, depending on how it is being used. If it is being used as an adjective to mean what Merriam-Webster describes as “based on or behaving according to what is morally right and fair,” then that’s cool for cats.

Example: I don’t think the judge’s ruling was just; after all, I couldn’t help laughing at the police officer when she flew off her Segway into the fountain. [KC—Anybody who knows me and Segways knows that I am the police officer in this story.]

When just is being used as an adverb to mean “very recently,” that’s also okay.

Example: I just fell off a Segway ten minutes ago! [KC—No, Mom. I didn’t go on a Segway in Germany. I did not break my promise to you.]

It’s when you use just as an adverb to mean “exactly, precisely, totally, completely,” or something similar that it starts becoming weak, and makes your sentences weaker.


When someone is writing or speaking, and they say:

  • “I just thought you should know…”
  • “It just irks me when…”
  • “I think you should just try a little harder…”

You can certainly get rid of just and make your sentence stronger. Try reading the bulleted phrases without just and listen to the stronger meaning.

RK asked what this type of word is called, and I found several articles on the word just, but none suggesting a particular word type. Then I found this article called Five Weak Words, which seems to fit the bill. The three that I thought were most important were really, very, and things/stuff. Of course, the store in my neighborhood called “Stuff n’ Thangs” would probably beg to differ.

For more on the five weak words to avoid, click here.

For El Dia de Los Muertos

Kara Church

Technical Editor, Advisory

Symitar Documentation Services

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