Right Is Simple
Thanks to a colleague, I was lucky enough to come across an article on Slate.com about this handwritten note from Abraham Lincoln in the National Archive.
Lincoln needed only seven simple words to save a life and prove the stupidity of a tribunal's judgment.
Michael Delaney had been sentenced to death for desertion from his Colorado regiment. Delaney was no coward and no scofflaw. He was arrested while fighting for another Colorado regiment. But the Army, being the Army, sentenced him to death anyway.
Lincoln's response? Seven words:
Let him fight instead of being shot.
Isn't the right answer to a problem so often the short and simple answer? And it can be communicated in simple prose.
But if your brief sounds like an extended and complicated tap routine by the World Greco-Roman Wrestling Federation, it sounds wrong even if it's right.
Why do we do it? We write less like Lincoln getting at the truth, and more like scribes getting paid by the word.