Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach

Something Smells Fishy

Good writing is easy to recognise because it’s effortless to read.

No words feel excessive—making the text the simplest expression of the author’s idea.

I’m going to share an overused parable that wonderfully illustrates the idea of simplification.

Imagine a sign above a fishmonger that reads: “FRESH FISH SOLD HERE.”

Consider which of those words could be removed.

‘HERE’ is excessive, because you are there reading the sign.

‘SOLD’ is redundant, because it is unlikely fish are being given away.

‘FRESH’ is unnecessary, because no fishmonger sells stale fish.

And finally, you do not need to read ‘FISH’ to know there is a fishmonger. Your nose told you about the fish before you even turned the corner.

But before you start slashing the padding of your prose, be realistic.

Without a sign the fishmonger’s business is sure to suffer. But if your profession lies in writing stories, it pays to tell them as simply as possible.

By Jeroen Elsing
Ex-lawyer turned relationship coach