Fish principle

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The principle of legal drafting, which we attribute to Stanley Fish and his work How to Write a Sentence: And How to Read One — the gist of which is just keep going, don’t ever stop. Look, you might as well enjoy yourself, since in all likelihood you will be the only one who will ever read your sentence, let alone take anything meaningful out of it.[1]

Professor Fish is of a mind that there is only one bound to the possibilities of grammatical construction, and that is at the short end: there is a definite minimum limit to a sentence[2] — but no maximum, and it behoves one who is employed to manipulate language to do so as expansively as she can, deploying as many folds, crevices and fissures as possible, to allow other, similarly-minded professionals, to make their own homes and livelihoods in that budding textual ecosystem.

A classic case of the Fish principle — one which illustrates its intersection with the Biggs constant, beyond which no further diminution of meaning is theoretically possible — is the incluso.

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  1. I confess this might involve some editorialising on my part.
  2. It is said Victor Hugo enquired, “?” in a letter to his publisher, by way of enquiry after the sales of Les Miserables; his publisher’s reply was “!”