Why you should cut “just” out of your emails

pomegranite logo jpeg.JPGBy Liz Fletcher of Pomegranite

Have you noticed how often you use the word “just” in a professional context, particularly emails? I’ve been thinking about why I use it so much in tricky situations and if it’s something that women use more than men.

I often find myself using it when I feel like I’m being annoying to a client (while I’m trying to do my job), for example, “I just wanted to check in with you about…” or “I’m just following up on…”. It makes the sentence feel like a smaller inconvenience, like what I’m really saying is “I’m sliding this tiny little thing it into your stack of to-dos but it’s not a big deal” while batting my eyelashes.

Using “just” helps to make me feel like I’m less of a nuisance. But I’m doing my job, so why should I want to feel like this? While it might seem like “just” smooths the path for requests, it also makes us appear small; it diminishes respect for our work and ourselves. Why shouldn’t we take up as much space in someone’s to-do list as anything else?

Compare the same phrases without “just”: “I’d like to check in with you about…” and “I’m following up on…”. Do you hear how much more clear and direct the requests are? It’s as if you’ve sat up straight while asking. That’s what a professional relationship should be.

Ellen Leanse, a former Google executive wrote a 2015 LinkedIn blog about the word “just”, when she noticed women (including herself) using it way more than men, and how she tackled it in her office. She began to notice that “just” wasn’t about being polite,

“it was a subtle message of subordination, of deference. Sometimes it was self-effacing. Sometimes even duplicitous. As I started really listening, I realized that striking it from a phrase almost always clarified and strengthened the message.”

Try this experiment, which we also did in our team. Search or read through your emails for the next couple of days and count the number of times “just” appears. Notice why you used it and how it changes the tone when you remove it. We were astounded by how often we use it and have committed to clarity and confidence by removing it.

IMG_8110Liz Fletcher is the co-owner of Pomegranite, a boutique online presence consultancy which she set up with her business partner Sarah Gurney, in 2013. The pair met studying English literature together at Rhodes University and grew the business through developing thoughtful storytelling on digital platforms.

The Pomegranite offices in Cape Town and Joburg service clients which are predominantly in the SME, NGO and education sectors.

Liz gets a kick out of bringing the magic out in her team and developing systems and plans that help the business run smoothly.


Job opportunity: Association of Progressive Communications

APC to hire communications officer:

Association for Progressive Communications ( has an opening for a communications officer to participate in the virtual communications team of the world’s oldest online progressive network. The position is 60-80% time on a one-year contract with the option to renew if funding is available. Candidates should be available to begin in June 2014. The deadline for applications is 29 April 2014.

Job profile
You will lead communications work for one of APC’s two programmes, our
Communications and Internet Policy Programme (CIPP).

We are looking for someone who has:

  • At least five years experience in communications, media relations and social marketing
  • Developed successful strategies and plans for campaigns, events and publication dissemination
  • Measurable success with campaigns and dissemination via social media,Twitter in particular
  • Experience working completely online including managing projects remotely
  • A concise, creative, confident communication style, with a strong visual sense and excellent English writing and editing skills
  • Experience working in the non-profit sector, specifically in internet policy
  • Experience dealing with multiple cultures and languages.

Note that fluency in French, Spanish will be a distinct advantage.

Communications, media and social marketing
You will work on a four-person editorial team to produce original news and feature content in English, French and Spanish. A suitable, qualified candidate could also be appointed as editorial chief of our French-language website ( and our twice-monthly French-language newsletter, APCNouvelles. 

On issues related to communications and internet policy, you will act as international media liaison and sometimes spokesperson with primarily print, web and radio media in English (and potentially Spanish and French). You will assist the communications team in developing and monitoring relationships with the media and in the production of media releases.

You will keep APC up to date in social networking spaces, planning and coordinating strategic approaches to product launches and events.

You will join one other communications officer in reporting to the communications manager and will work on a day-to-day basis with the CIPP manager and staff, as well as the entire APC staff and its members. Most of the work takes place in mailing lists.

Remuneration and working conditions
The remuneration for this position is negotiable depending on skills,qualifications and experience.
The successful applicant is expected to provide his or her own computer,have easy access to an internet connection, and work during normaloffice hours. Reimbursement for office supplies and communication costs will be covered by APC. While much of the communications work will take place online, some travel to meetings, conferences and workshops is expected.

How to apply
Your statement of interest is extremely important. Your CV must be included as an attachment. Please consider the following in your statement:

* A description of your interest in working with APC in this position
* Your experience related to the requirements listed above
* A rating of the languages you speak and write
* A description of your computer skills
* Other information you think might be of importance to our assessment
of your application
* Two references: names, relationship, contact details; at least one of
these should be related to an online communications initiative in which
you had a leadership role.

Women, people of colour and candidates from the global south are especially encouraged to apply.

Please send this information via email to with the subject line: “APC communications officer — your name” by 29 April.


Feminists on Twitter

Part of feminism is connecting women around the world and getting them talking about the issues that are important to them. In honour of that activity we’d like to start a list of all the feminists on twitter, so that we can follow one another and build our network.

So, if you’re a feminist and you’re on twitter, add your twitter handle in the comments here.

Aluta continua


Are we thumbing our way into a mute and illiterate society?

By Rethabile Mashale

I am always amazed at how much time people spend on their mobile phones doing that which I call Thumbing. I have watched the sms phenomenon unfold in my family and larger social network.  A few years ago my mom and aunts had no idea how to use the sms functions on their phones, recently all of them are Texting, Tweeting, Whatsapping, Skype chatting and BBMing (Blackberry messenger). I now receive endless sms’ from the older women in my life about mundane domestic things, something that would have required a phone call or face to face conversation five years ago.

These days my young cousins and their friends (and even my friends) spend a large share of their day on their cellphones engaging in this phenomenon called Thumbing.   For me thumbing describes the use of our thumbs to type on our QWERTY keypads and touch screens.  People are profusely thumbing messages to each other and sometimes people are in the same room sending messages to each other instead of having a real face-to-face conversation.

Sadly, this phenomenon has also crept into my love life.  My partner and I now wake up and roll over towards our cellphones to Facebook, Whatsapp or check trends on Twitter.  We instant message each other back and forth while we lie next to each other on the same bed.  The instant messages are usually us telling each other stupid things that are happening in the “world” outside our bed. Is this the end of intimacy as we know it?  That is a topic for another day, all I can say is that we are progressively becoming mute and are freely relinquishing our ability to “voice” things to those around us.

Don’t get me wrong, I see the value of all of these platforms when there is a distance and cost factor involved.  It’s cheaper and easier to send texts to my sister in Germany.  It’s more convenient for my mom to sms me the shopping list instead of calling me about it.  It’s cheaper for my aunt to Whatsapp me responses when she is in a meeting.  It’s better for all my friends on BBM to BBM me messages when they are in another city or country.  It’s better to send status updates on Twitter and Facebook when you are trying to tell many people where you are and what you are doing or what you are thinking.

What I don’t get is people who share a house or office, are in the same room, on the same bed but are opting to thumb their messages instead of having a real conversation.  To add to that, they no longer use grammatically correct and complete sentences, now we get things like: brb (be right back), GR8 (great), L8 (late),OMG (oh my gosh),G2G (got to go), WTH (what the hell) and a variation  of others.  My all-time favourite is LOL (laugh of loud), what happened to actually laughing out loud?

Are we all thumbing our way into arthritis in our fingers? Are we dumbing down our children by allowing them to have access to cellphones and social networking sites?  Are we turning into a mute society? A society that only communicates via the cyberspace? What happened to good old conversation between people?

In the case of my mom and aunts, they are a generation that went through a harsh schooling system which taught them to read and write grammatically correct sentences. Their advantage is that they have recently entered into this thumbing world and thus send coherent and correctly spelt and punctuated sentences when they Thumb.

However, the younger generation are growing up in this age of super Thumbing. Their use of shortened words, abbreviations and overly exaggerated punctuations leaves them at a great disadvantage and state of illiteracy.  Thumbing seems to have created a whole new vocabulary that is exclusively theirs.

The frail education system is not equipped to produce “fully” literate people and we further compound the burden by allowing young people to immerse themselves into their mobile phones and texting.  We are breeding a generation that will be illiterate, mute, socially inept, lack interpersonal skills and ultimately have crippled thumbs.  What are the implications of this in advancing young women and men in South Africa? If education is the key to success, what does a generation of illiterate people mean for South Africa’s global competiveness?  How are women going to be empowered out of poverty if they cannot read or write properly? These are some of questions that plague me right now.