This One Word Could Be Undermining Your Professional Career

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

How To Write Professional Emails and Why You Should Not Include the Word Just In Your Emails


The word "just" has become all too comfortable in my vocabulary. It is an undermining word that has no place in the business world. Here's why I quit using the word just and how I was able to adopt a new email style that made me more direct and task orientated.

At 23, I started my first salary paid, big girl, real-world job, and I was so pumped. However, working in an office of 9 I was thrown into my event coordinating role and required to e-mail and build relationships with people I have never met (or never would meet). It was pretty intimidating, honestly. How do I get someone to give me the answers I need when they know nothing about me.



"Just wanted to make sure those meeting times are okay?"

"Just wondering if you were able to get that document?"


"Just checking in to see where you were at with that flyer?"

What do these sentences have in common? They all have the word "just" in there as the first word. It doesn't matter what follows the word, my statement has already been diminished. It offers an apologetic tone when, like, why? 

Coming back to me, 23 and emailing some big-wigs about sponsorships and event logistics, I felt timid and irrelevant. I worked in a non-profit and constantly felt like I had to be at their beck and call and not be in their way in order to get their dollars. Hence I "just"-ed my way through every email. 

How To Write Professional Emails and Why You Should Not Include the Word Just In Your Emails

I think this "just" nonsense stems from my unisex name, Jordan. 

I would never change my name. I've grown to love (I didn't like it so much growing up) and I'm actually grateful my parents picked this name for me.  After starting up my life in the business world, I realized how many times a day I am referred to as "he".

This really bothered me for a bit so I would feminize up my voice via e-mail. I would try to include exclamation points, some very carefully placed small jokes or ha-ha's, and the word "just" in almost every sentence. In order to (hopefully) convey my gender so I would stop getting these emails. Naturally, women are more submissive than men, by being passive maybe they will get the hint that I am a female. 

The emails still come addressed "Dear Mr. Nelson," so clearly my methods aren't coming off the way I would hope and now all I'm doing is putting a dent in my confident statement. I'll be pleasant but direct. 

If I'm going to be addressed like a man, I might as well type like a man.


How To Write Professional Emails and Why You Should Not Include the Word Just In Your Emails


In a word (specifically an adverb), just means exactly, very recently, and or in the immediate past.

"I just saw that movie."

This is an appropriate use of the word just. If we are referring to something that recently occurred. However, feel free to replace the word "just" with the word "recently" if you want to eliminate the word "just" from your vocabulary together, 

However, when the task is not to used in this sense it diminishes the importance of my task.

How To Write Professional Emails and Why You Should Not Include the Word Just In Your Emails

It diminishes the importance of my task.

In the past, when I was asking for a check from someone who has utilized services or made a pledge and it is way past the date they promised to pay I would have asked like this:

"I just wanted to reach out and make sure you got that invoice from March."

Those first four words in that sentence, to me, say that the matter is not urgent and I hope I'm not inconveniencing you, but I'd like to talk about this. 

How I should have phrased it is:

"I wanted to reach out and make sure you got that invoice from March."

Still kind, still considerate, and still inserting my task I need assistance with. 

I stopped using the word just and now I get the answers I need.

People look at my tasks and questions more directly. I demanded a seat at the table via e-mail and I'm not going to make myself seem meek by throwing in a few "just's."

There is a distinct difference between the two phrases with only one word eliminated that doesn't weaken my stance on a matter. No, I'm not sending my entire email in the subject line, but I am being more direct and assertive in my asks and tasks.  After "just"-ing my way through my career, I've said NO MORE. I'm not writing it in professional manners anymore.

Flash forward two years later and I have developed a completely different email style. I say what I want and when I want it but will also ask how your day is going in the process. There is a human on the other side of that email. Be a human but don't be a meek human. It's not personal, its just business.




How To Write Professional Emails and Why You Should Not Include the Word Just In Your Emails

1 comment

  1. When I was studying in the university I conducted a list of my must-have resources. This page is one of them and there have been 3 years and I still use them and they help me with my work and e-mails.

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