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Aesop, Abraham Lincoln, and You

May I tell you about a writing technique shared by Aesop and Abe Lincoln?

Let's look first at Aesop's timeless tale about the tortoise and the hare. It's the one that ends "slow and sure wins the race." The entire story is about 160 words long.

Now let's move forward in history about 2600 years.

Nearly 150 years ago President Abe Lincoln stood to address the crowd at a cemetery dedication ceremony. He spoke so briefly and left the podium so quickly, the photographer barely had time to snap a picture.

Yet the Gettysburg Address is considered one of humankind's greatest speeches. And it's only about 240 words. (That's even more impressive when you consider the average speech back then ran about 7200 to 15,000 words!)

Have you guessed what Aesop's tale and Lincoln's speech have in common? Yes?each is very short, well under 200 words.

Recent research presents convincing evidence that shorter, more succinct messages get read and remembered better than longer ones.

Next time you sit down to write a letter or report, remember Aesop. Remember Abe Lincoln. If they can write powerful documents in very few words, so can you.

You've got a great advantage over these two magnificent authors. They're not with us anymore. But tomorrow, you could create a classic.

Rix Quinn's new book "Words That Stick: A Guide to Short Writing with Big Impact" offers lots of writing ideas for both students and professionals. It's available from you local bookstore, or Ten Speed Press.

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