No greater example of efficiency and elegance in the English language exists than Lincoln’s Gettysburg address. At 271 words it takes only a minute to read and only slightly longer to speak.
We cannot hope to be as gifted a wordsmith as Lincoln, never-the-less, we can strive to cut out everything unnecessary in our writing. We should write as clearly as we can in as few words possible consistent with accurately conveying our message.
In my creative non-fiction writing course (internal link), I am coming across the most ornate of modern writing. I don’t understand it. Hidden meanings, double meanings, fuzzy metaphors, and stories within a story. Impressionistic writing. This is the stuff of fiction and not non-fiction. Sigh. I will try to better understand.
The history of the Gettysburg address and the address in its five variations is here (external link).
Update: Creative non-fiction is a real genre. It’s a thing (internal link)
The Gettysburg address
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, upon this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate, we can not consecrate – we can not hallow – this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here.
It is for us, the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here, have, thus far, so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain – that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom – and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.