What The Declaration Of Independence Can Teach Us About Writing

Written for Where Writers Win

It just took me over an hour to write an “Out of Office” vacation message! I know.

It often takes me an entire day or more to write a one page press release. My nephew was visiting last week, and he wanted to go to the beach. I was writing a press release and he kept lurking over my shoulder. He finally asked me what was taking so long. ‘Finding the right words’ – I told him. ‘Sometimes it is difficult deciding between using ‘the ‘or ‘a.’’

He looked at me like I was a cast member of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.

Language matters. I appreciate the thrill of language – the difference a single word can make and how a well- crafted sentence makes me feel. It’s magical.

The writers of the Declaration of Independence felt that way, too. When it comes to writing, our founding fathers proved they were visionaries in more ways than one.

  1. After Jefferson wrote his first draft of the Declaration, the other members of the Declaration committee and the Continental Congress made 86 changes to Jefferson’s draft, including shortening the overall length by more than a fourth.
    Take away: Less IS more. Editing creates clarity.
  1. Once the Declaration of Independence had been written and signed, printer John Dunlap was asked to make about 200 copies to be distributed throughout the colonies. Today, the “Dunlap Broadsides” are extremely rare and valuable. In 1989, someone discovered a previously unknown Dunlap Broadside. It was sold for over $8 million in 2000. There are only 26 known surviving Dunlap Broadsides today.
    Take away: The ‘scarcity’ marketing method was introduced. Scarcity creates ‘want.’ Even great writing needs help to be discovered.
  1. The oldest signer of the Declaration was Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706 and was therefore already 70 at the time of the Declaration. Franklin went on to help negotiate the Treaty of Alliance with France in 1778 and the Treaty of Paris, which ended the Revolutionary War in 1783.
    Take away: You are never too old to write memorable stuff. Using the right words is important. Words are powerful. They can even create peace.

Enjoy the rest of your holiday weekend!