Journalism professor Robert Marshall Wells opened class once by writing this on the board:

Fresh Fish Sold Here

He turned to the class. “You run a fish market. You want to get your sign as short as possible. You want to catch the readers’ attention and convey your message. Which words are necessary?”

Well, “here” is not needed. The location of the sign indicates that sales happen in that spot.

Fresh Fish Sold

That “sold” looks kind of silly now, doesn’t it?

Fresh Fish

Does the fact that the fish are fresh need to be conveyed? Would anyone say otherwise? “Smelly Fish” … “Old, Decaying Fish” ? …Nope.

We are left with:


Today, Alexis Grant gives 10 ways to self-edit your copy. Learn all about superfluous words and how to improve your writing. She gives away a lot of the secrets here.