Friday, January 28, 2011

J is for Just

I'm very pleased to welcome multi-published author and editor Judy Griffith Gill to be with us today to talk about 'Just' and other words that will send your editor screaming from the room. Welcome, Judy.


By Judy Griffith Gill

I just want to tell you I about the letter I just got a from my sister. She said they have just experienced a fall of three centimeters of snow on the streets of Vancouver, BC, which just about never gets more than that, and when it does come, it’s just so rare nobody knows how to drive in it and cars just slide down hills, through intersections, just smashing and banging into each other. The news stations are just leaving other reporting to later, just keeping their cameras focused on crashes, which are mostly just fender-benders. She said, “All morning, it just kept falling and falling, and didn’t stop just until about an hour ago and now every bush and shrub and tree is just covered with white. It’s pretty, but I just don’t like snow.

Okay, let’s rewrite that: Moments ago I got a letter from my sister bout the three centimeters of snow lying on the streets of Vancouver, BC, where nobody knows how to drive in the stuff because it so seldom comes. TV stations ignore other news, keeping their cameras aimed at the skidding, sliding traffic, watching cars banging and smashing into each other. Luckily, most of the crashes are nothing more than fender-benders. “It kept falling and falling all morning,” she said, “stopping about an hour ago, leaving every bush and shrub and tree covered in white. It’s pretty, but I don’t like it.”

One hundred thirty-seven words v. ninety-nine words say basically the same thing, don’t they, without that non-useful word, “just”, which is nothing more than padding in the written page. Yes, we use it “just” about every day in speech, but the written word and the spoken word are definitely two different things. The word “just” in your writing, is mere clutter.

Other clutter-words and phrases to watch for because they weaken your sentences are: As a matter of fact, at the present time, seems, appears, somewhat, sort of, kind of, merely, all but, really, very, quite, extremely, severely, by virtue of, due to the fact that, for the most part, Something in the nature of, twelve noon, twelve midnight, six AM in the morning. Both noon and midnight are very clear statements of time. There is no need to add in the morning to 6 AM. Everyone knows AM is in the morning.

When you’ve finished writing your manuscript, do a global search for the word “that” and eliminate every one “that” you “possibly” can. This should read, …and eliminate every one you can.”

Mark Twain (Samuel Clements) advised writers tempted to use the word ‘very’, to replace it with ‘damn’ because the editor would delete it and make the sentence right. (Dare I say “just” right?)

Vigorous writing is concise. A sentence should contain no unnecessary words, a paragraph no unnecessary sentences, for the same reason that a drawing should have no unnecessary lines and a machine no unnecessary parts. This requires not that the writer make all his sentences short, or that he avoid all detail and treat his subjects only in outline, but that every word tell.
— William Strunk Jr.
in Elements of Style

To this, I would add “Every word must show.”

Some valuable sites to visit:

Electronic reprints of many of Judy’s books are available at; Some previously unpublished books are now up on at the Kindle site, and

~ * ~

Judy Griffith Gill has been writing for more years than she cares to count and has no plans to quit, although she has slowed down recently thanks to a job she enjoys, acquiring and editing for Her most recent titles are Heated Dreams, a paranormal erotic novel from and Mother Love, a woman's fiction novel available for download at

Judy Griffith Gill
Books available for download
at & Kindle


Infogypsy said...

Wow, you found my Echo word; 'just' peppers my earlier books. I actually have to go through and suck them out in final edit! Thanks for the links a well - I'll check them out.
Lynn Romaine

Carol McPhee said...

Great reinforcement for what most authors know but tend to squeeze in anyway. Lol.

Carol McPhee:

Multi-Published, Award-Winning Romance Novelist
Strong, smart, sensuous heroines; heroes to die for.

linda_rettstatt said...

I'm laughing because Carol is in my critique group and slams me on the use of 'just' all the time. (You'd think I'd learn. .

I'll refer to Judy's post here often, I'm sure.


Allison Knight said...

I 'just' loved it. Oh, my! 'That' is my nemesis. I know my editor cringes when a new manuscript shows up. I keep telling myself to delete, but it doesn't sound right without that 'that'. Grinning!

Arabella Stokes said...

I'll just have to remember to just leave out the musts on everything I send to just Judy!

Arabella stokes said...

Oops that was supposed to be "justs". Darned auto-correct!

Fiona McGier said...

I have been slowly learning to eliminate excess verbiage, but it's difficult to do when you feel like every manuscript is one of your children, and they are perfect as they are! ;-D
But I am also an English teacher, and I know from years of correcting student papers, that padding with words that add nothing, adds nothing.

Rosemary Gemmell said...

Wonderful post, Judy, thanks! The 'just' word is one I've been trying to eliminate for years but you've (just) given me a whole list to go through. Think I'll need to print it out and keep before me.

Margaret Tanner said...

Hi Judy
Thank you for the great blog. I have to plead guilty I use just a lot, but I am trying to give it up.



Sandra Cox said...

This was excellent, Judy! Thanks for the reminder.

Claudy Conn said...

Enjoyed your blog. Going to my latest work and doing a search
on 'just'!
Claudy Conn

Kimberley Dehn said...

Well,Judy, you 'just' about covered every word sin out there. I'm in the process of word cutting--or in some cases paragraph executing-- and am amazed by various word repetitions I unconsciously use out of habit.I'm adding several you mentioned to my weed out list. Thanks!
Kimberley Dehn
author of romantical comedy, Southern Exposure

Edna Curry said...

Good post, Judy!
I do the same thing, but in every manuscript, I repeat a different word. Thank God for critique partners and editors!