The Gettysburg Address: lessons for writers (and translators!)

Today is the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg address, delivered by Abraham Lincoln on 19 November 1863. Cordelia (aka Dilly or Dill) Ditton, a Glasgow-based actress, director and communication coach, wrote an interesting blog post about the Address back in February, entitled “Abraham Lincoln, the power of sound and maybe the greatest speech ever written“. Dilly’s post contains some good advice on writing (and translating, which is, after all, a form of writing): the power of the sound of the words, the importance of listening to what you’re writing.

Dilly also mentions another important element of good writing: brevity. Here she compares the speech given by Edward Everett, the “keynote speaker” at Gettysburg, and that given by Lincoln:

Edward Everett spoke for 2 hours, as was the custom at the time.  No-one remembers his speech.  Lincoln spoke for 2 minutes, his speech consisted of just 10 sentences and holds some of the most famous phrases in the English Language.

In speech-making, more is not necessarily more.

Other posts you might like:

The king’s speech (not to mention the queen and the presidents’)

The king’s speech — and how to translate it

When the Poet Died: on translating remembrance

By Marian Dougan


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