The word ‘just’ is often used in copy. The problem is, it’s an adverb (at least, in the context it’s usually used in).
Bad use of adverbs tells us one thing, the writer is an amateur (it’s not just in sales copy though, it’s in every type of writing).
Here’s an example: “Can you believe this is just £$99” [NOTE: you could use ‘only’ instead of ‘just’, but that’s an adverb too]
The problem with this is focus. The focus is on ‘believing’ and not what we want them to focus on – the price. BUT, remove the word ‘just’ and it’s considerably worse. With ‘just’ removed, we have no idea if $99 is good or bad: “Can you believe this is £$99”. So ‘just’ is necessary but not quite right because the focus of the sentence is wrong.
Let’s change the focus and the angle: “At $99 it’s a snip”. It’s now shorter and there’s an implication that $99 is good value. We’ve been anchored on price because it’s now the focus of our sentence.
Let’s put the ‘just’ back in:
“At just $99 it’s a snip”. The implication is now stronger. It really does seem like a good deal.
Let’s move it around a bit:
“At $99 it’s just a snip”. Now we’ve made it cheap, but in a bad way. We now know it’s only a ‘snip’ – whatever that is!
Here’s a different use of the word just: “We don’t buy just because it has some feature.”. If we take ‘just’ out, we get: “We don’t buy because it has some feature.”. A totally different meaning (you may have to read this twice).
Or if we move it: “We don’t just buy because it has some feature.”. Now it’s almost nonsensical. Nobody ‘just buys’. There’s always more to it than that.
And that is the lesson here. “We don’t just buy because of some feature or another, we buy because that feature has a strong connection with something in our life that we desire or need.”.
And that makes it a just buy indeed. Next time you chuck in a ‘just’, think about whether it’s helping or hindering. It’s one of a multitude of tests we should apply automatically to copy before publication.
PS. Is it ‘apply automatically’ [verb > adverb] or ‘automatically apply’? The former is correct in this context because we want people to understand that THEY must learn to apply it automatically (it won’t happen on its own – as ‘automatically apply’ infers).
PPS. Is it really necessary to think about words this deeply? Yes. It’s the difference between a pro and an amateur. If your life depended on using the right words, you’d make sure you got them right.
I've spent my working life starting and running a whole variety of businesses, from my first QPL Express Couriers where I travelled over 100,000 miles every year delivering packages on a motorcycle (along with a whole bunch of colleagues) to Accountz.com which made a major in-road in the UK, to ProofMEDIA my current business that focuses on Copywriting and the International Copywriters Association, which helps copywriters learn more about copywriting and the copywriting industry around the world.
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