Monday, 10 March 2008

Improving Gettysburg

Here's Justin Moffat thinking about Lincoln's Gettysburg address as a model for sermon preparation.

It's a pretty good speech, I suppose. But we editors know that even greatness can be improved and transmogrified into super-duper-meta-greatness. I found the following critique of Gettysburg on Alton Gansky's blog.

Four score and seven years ago (archaic, change to contemporary usages) our fathers (offensive to women; too gender specific) brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, (why are you capitalizing “Liberty”? Consult with style guide.) and dedicated to the proposition that all men (again with the male superiority, Abe) are created (Abe, this spiritual talk will offend the atheist) equal.

[Editor’s recommendation for opening line: Eighty-seven years ago our grandparents started a new nation with liberty as its goal. They also felt that every person born equal.]

Now we are engaged in a great (great implies good and war isn’t so good—choose better term) civil (how can a war be civil) war, testing whether that (unclear; which nation?) nation, or any nation so conceived (sexual overtones; could be offensive to some) and so dedicated, can long endure (awkward).

[Editor’s suggestion: This ongoing war between the states is a test of our commitment to the liberty—if we survive.]

We are met on a great (again with the “great.” You might consider a broadening your vocabulary) battle-field of that war (Redundant. There’s no such thing as a battlefield of peace). 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. (Unnecessary inclusion. Of course, it’s fitting. The reader doesn’t need to be told this.)

[Editor’s suggestion: We are here on this battle field to dedicate it to those who died. It’s the least we can do.]

But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate -- we cannot consecrate -- we cannot hallow -- this ground. (Tortured sentence. Get to the point. Used “cannot” three times.) The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.

[Editor’s suggestion: In point of fact, the soldiers who died here have already consecrated this ground. All we can do is recognize that truth.]

The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here (“here” is unnecessary and used twice in this sentence. Strike it.), 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 (Awkward, stilted—revise).

[Editor’s suggestion: What we do today may soon be forgotten, but what the soldiers did on this battlefield will be remembered forever.]

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 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 (watch the God-talk, Abe), 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. (Awkward and cumbersome paragraph. Remember, less is more.)

[Editor’s suggestion: What remains for us is to continue working for liberty and freedom. After all, a lot of people died for our cause. Let’s not forget them.]

Okay, Abe. Those are my notes. I think you have a good start here and that someday, you will make a great speechwriter. You just need to pay attention to the details.

1 comment:

Justin said...

Very funny, Gorden Chang!