Monday, May 13, 2013

For Shame: Editing the Gettysburg Address

Lincoln (in circle) at Gettysburg three hours before his speech.
The piece below (from here) is an example of the editing a new computer program would do to the Gettysburg Address. It is, of course, absurd, overbearing, without initiative or creativity and, well, a whole like an 11th grade English teacher who's attempting to steal a student's voice.

It really boils my bodily fluids, more because of what it says about editors than what it says about writers. This speech has been called--by people who know what they're talking about--"perfect."

Here's what the program did to perfection:

Four score and seven [EIGHTY-SEVEN] years ago our fathersANCESTORS is preferable] brought forth on [ONE PART OF] this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty [NO NEED TO CAPITALIZE], and dedicated [WHAT’S YOUR SOURCE FOR THIS?] to the proposition that all men [PEOPLE] are created equal.

Now [CAN YOU BE MORE SPECIFIC ABOUT THIS TIME REFERENCE? WHEN EXACTLY IS 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 [ASSEMBLED] on a great battle-field [NO HYPHEN IN WEBSTER’S NEW WORLD FOURTH EDITION] of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, [EXTRANEOUS COMMA] as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that [IN ORDER] that [SUCH A] nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this
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But, in a larger [ANOTHER] sense, we can not dedicate* — we can not consecrate* — we can not hallow* — this ground.[*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE] The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have [ALREADY] consecrated it, far above our poor [MORE LIMITED] power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember [THIS IS CONJECTURE] what we say here, but it can [MAY] never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which [THAT] 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 — [A COLON IS PREFERABLE TO A DASH] that from these honored dead [AND WOUNDED] 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, shall have a new birth [CONTINUATION] of freedom — and that government of the people*, by the people*, for the people* [*REPETITIVE LANGUAGE], shall not perish from the earth.

Grade: C-.

General comment: Too short.

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