We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a Red Herring?

Diana Bocco
Updated May 23, 2024
Our promise to you
Language & Humanities is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At Language & Humanities, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A red herring refers to a device or diversion used to distract the onlooker from the original idea. Red herrings are often seen in films, adventure games, and puzzles. However, the most common use for such a device is in literature, especially mystery and thriller stories.

Simply put, a red herring is an item which has no use in the story except to distract the reader from the real culprit. It can take the form of a character, which the reader may believe to be the killer, only to discover later that he is innocent. Or it can take the form of an item which readers believe to be the clue to a discovery, but which turns out to be worthless.

The books of Agatha Christie often use a red herring to detract the reader from the actual offender. For example, in Cat Among the Pigeons, two similar crimes lead the reader to believe a particular character is a killer, but it turns out that the two murders in the book are unrelated, and so the character is actually free of blame. In The Mysterious Affair at Styles, the reader is led to believe that the two main characters hate each other, but this turns out to be a way for them to hide the fact that they conspired to kill somebody. Sherlock Holmes stories often use a red herring as a central part of the plot, and so does Edgar Allan Poe in many of his short stories.

In films, a red herring can often be found in Alfred Hitchcock stories, where characters and things turn out to be anything but what the viewer expects them to be. One of the best examples of the use of a red herring in contemporary film can be found in the movie Saw. During the whole film, two characters spend time imprisoned in a room in which a third character lies dead. Throughout the film, both characters appear to be guilty of a series of murders, until is discovered at the end that the third person in the room is not actually dead. He is, in fact, the killer.

Language & Humanities is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diana Bocco
By Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various businesses. With a data-focused approach and a talent for sharing engaging stories, Diana’s written work gets noticed and drives results.
Discussion Comments
By Tufenkian925 — On Feb 18, 2011

I've noticed that it seems to be a common trend in shows and stories these days to make the side of all the characters completely ambiguous. This is really kind of realistic, since most people do have their dirty little secrets in real life. In a story, this can be confusing, and erstwhile heroes will suddenly commit violent atrocities of an evil nature. Sometimes, the villain suddenly becomes a friend of the hero, or the hero himself.

By Armas1313 — On Feb 17, 2011

Red herrings have become so predictable these days that many shows will actually cause an ironic twist to happen in which the supposed red herring actually is the culprit. Depending on the audience, this, too can be seen as predictable. Story writers are constantly seeking new techniques and methods to surprise an audience.

Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco
Diana Bocco, a versatile writer with a distinct voice, creates compelling long-form and short-form content for various...
Learn more
Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

Language & Humanities, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.