“The story of the composition of the Gettysburg Address was hijacked more than a century ago by a sentimental novelist who spun her tale that Lincoln wrote his speech on the back of an envelope on the train to Gettysburg.

No. We don’t know for certain when he wrote the speech, but we do know Lincoln continued to edit his address in the upstairs bedroom in (civic leader David) Wills’ home, where he stayed the night before the dedication ceremony. He understood there is no such thing as good writing; there is only good rewriting.”

Ronald C. White Jr.

author of “A. Lincoln: A Biography”

Los Angeles Times

Dear Mr. Lincoln,

Thanks for submitting your letter for publication in the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. With all the choices people have these days to publish their opinions, we are proud that you chose our pages as the way to reach out to your community.

Unfortunately, we won’t be able to use it in its current form. At over 3,000 words, your piece exceeds the 300-word limit for letters to the editor. It also violates some of our standards for content.

Perhaps you can review our guidelines (published every day in the Voice of the People section).

If you would like to revise and resubmit your piece, we’d be glad to take another look.

– The editor

Mr. Lincoln,

Thanks for revising your piece. Maybe I should have been more specific about my concerns.

That reference to the “beast from Revelations” – it’s Jefferson Davis, right?

When it’s that easy to figure out, you don’t have to use his actual name for us to get in trouble. It’s false, defamatory and we could wind up in court for libel if we published it.

Also, you mention the “Whore of Babylon,” which could be seen as a reference to Mrs. Davis, and also actionable. I know it’s from the Bible, but in this context it would be considered obscene.

And it’s still much too long. I’m sorry we can’t bend the rules for you without breaking them for everyone.

If you want to give it another shot, let me know.

– The editor

Mr. Lincoln,

Better. Thanks for taking out all the personal attacks. But it is still much too long. Much, much too long.

I know you think this is all very important – the-rededication-of- a-broken-nation-to-it’s-founding- principles thing (I get it) – but you have to remember that your readers will be very busy people. You’ll lose a lot of them at this length.

And I’m sorry I didn’t catch this earlier, but there is too much math in the first sentence (what we call the “lede”).

People eating cereal and trying to get the kids to school don’t have time to figure out how much “four score” is. I had to look it up myself.

“Almost a century” works much better.

– The editor

Mr. Lincoln,

Way to go on the length! It’s down to 272 words without your name and home town.

There still is that issue of the math in the lede, though. And I didn’t notice this before, but “four” and “score” rhyme and we have a strict no-poetry rule on the letters page. If I let you get away with this, I would have to take every lame “Night Before Christmas” parody poem that comes down the pike.

I’m afraid it’s a deal-breaker for us. Put it in words everybody can understand or find another place to publish.

– The editor

Mr. Lincoln,

Just to follow up on our phone conversation: I understand that you are angry. I hear you.

It’s clear that you have worked very hard on your piece and you think it should be published as is. I agree that it is very solid – a strong candidate for “Letter of the Month.”

But I hope when you calm down you will consider that this is what we editors do for a living and we probably have a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck with your piece. I think your idea of performing it in public makes a lot of sense. Maybe you can have a big chart that explains the numbers.

Remember, every writer needs an editor, and there’s no such thing as good writing, only good rewriting.

– The editor

Greg Kesich is the editorial page editor. He can be contacted at 791-6481 or at: [email protected]