The gist is simple: gist is spelled with a G, not a J. It's one of a handful of English words which begin with a soft G sound and are spelled that way. Gin, anyone?
Picture: Getty Images/Rob Kim
It actually would never have occurred to me that this might be a common mistake, but regular Mind Your Language contributor KiloOscarZulu pointed out that it has happened more than once on our very own sister site Gizmodo. Evidently people who have heard the word but never seen it written down assume it begins with a J. This assumption is incorrect.
The typical pattern for English is for an initial G to be a "hard G" (golly gosh, Gizmodo!), but there are a number of exceptions: gin, giant, gel, gym. Most of those occur when the following sound can be represented by an -e or an -i, but it's not an absolute rule and you'll just have to learn the exceptions. Accuracy matters.
Lifehacker's Mind Your Language column offers bossy advice on improving your writing.