I read a wonderful book called “The Lost Art of the Great Speech: How to Write One, How to Deliver It,” by Richard Dowis, an award-winning speechwriter and retired senior vice president of Manning, Selvage and Lee.
The book is chock full of great writing tips and world-class speeches by everyone from Washington, Lincoln, Churchill and Roosevelt to JFK, Jesse Jackson, Nelson Mandela and Mario Cuomo—with some female representation from Rep. Barbara Jordan, Margaret Thatcher and former UN Ambassador Jeanne Kirkpatrick.
One of the excellent chapters is on editing the speech. Dowis quotes former Reagan speechwriter Peggy Noonan, who says this about being edited, “A speech is a fondue pot, and everyone has a fork. And I mean everyone.”
Dowis adds, “If you’re a speechwriter working in a corporate or government environment, you’ll have plenty of ‘editors’ – probably more than you want or need. Everyone, it seems, is a frustrated writer and cannot resist the impulse to edit someone else’s hard work.”
He’s right, of course, but all writers need editing.
One of the best editors I ever had was the manager of my speechwriters group at a telecommunications company back in New Haven, Conn. It was my first real speechwriting job.