Based on a modified Huygens-Fresnel principle valid in the near field, we analytically verify the exponential wave decay of evanescent waves. This field decay along the propagation direction can be considered as the result of interference between elementary oscillating dipole sources rather than point sources. Specific examples where the modified Huygens-Fresnel principle is applicable are also examined. In particular, the diffraction through a single nano-slit, as well as, the propagation of an engineered input leading to a subwavelength focus are presented. (C) 2010 Published by Elsevier B.V.