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?
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.
Thanks for the link! I LOVE the fish story. Such a good example.
That is a good article. I went to law school at Seattle University, which typically has the #1 rated legal writing program in the country, and if I had known earlier some of the things highlighted in the article, my transition to law school would have been smoother. Amazing that the average undergraduate, in my opinion, comes out of school in many instances devoid of many basic writing skills.
Michael: The flip side is that the more obtuse among us don’t appreciate good, clear writing. They confuse verbose with intelligent.