There are a lot of words that we could do without in our language.
Mostly buzzwords that have stayed too long and expletives hurled out merely because someone is not crafty enough to find another word to use. Grammatically, language is filled with adverbs and adjectives that make sentences poetic, but often are not necessary to the base structure. These words are called modifiers (or qualifiers) and their purpose is to “describe and provide more accurate definitional meaning for another element.”
(Whew! Composition and grammar lesson over now!)
I am guilty of lacing my writing with modifiers. I think it is (in part) because I am a word geek, and apparently I manifest that obsession by cramming as many words as possible into a single sentence.
Sometimes these words make things better. Without them, Alexander would have just had a Shitty Day, instead of a Terrible Horrible No Good Very Bad one. Aside from the fact that I don’t think Simon & Schuster publishing could have gotten away with the first incarnation as a children’s title, the second one is more fun to say. I haven’t read that book for easily 20 years, and I can still rattle off the string of words like the Pledge of Allegiance and Bluto’s “Was It Over When The Germans Bombed Pearl Harbor” speech.
When these words are used as modifiers to make another element “look good” then I’m on board with their use.
Sometimes qualifications are good. They prove that something has the necessary skills, knowledge, and expertise to fulfill a task.
They also, by definition, limit and make things less than. In business management courses and local Toastmaster meetings, you are taught to NOT use qualifying words. They detract from the impact of what you are saying.
Words like: hope, intend, plan, like, might, kind of… they are making you a pale imitation of a brilliant mind.
How many times have you heard (or even uttered and typed) these sentences:
JUST sayin’ (a guilty pleasure of mine)
If you would JUST let me do XYZ…
I know I’m JUST an associate, but I think we should do it this way
The pre-sales are JUST an estimate, so it could tank after this
He’s JUST a dude with a blog
It’s JUST an internship at a prestigious magazine
I could go on with at least 100 other examples of how we use “just” to JUST marginalize the impact of what we are about to say. I’m sure each of you have another 100 examples as well. Ways that we try to stay in line, not reach outside the box, list ourselves into a safe place.
Accomplishing something bigger than yourself is scary. Pretty terrifying, actually. But don’t let that fear force you to moderate yourself. Most human beings are capable of much more than we think.
Think twice the next time you say/type/think the word “just.”
You are better than that.
You are worthy of beautiful, magnificent, mind-blowing, awe-inspiring words.
Elisa Doucette is a writer and editor who works with professional writers, entrepreneurs, and brands that want to make their own words even better. She is the Founder of Craft Your Content, and oversees Client Strategy and Writing Coaching. Her own writing has been featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Small Business, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also hosts the Writers' Rough Drafts podcast here on CYC. When she isn't writing, editing, or reading words, she can usually be found at a local pub quiz, deep in a sun salutation, or binging TV shows for concept ideas and laughs.