Political rhetoric: Why less can mean more

President Abraham Lincoln surrounded by the crowd at the dedication of a portion of the battlefield at Gettysburg as a national cemetery in 1863 Image copyright AP
Image caption Abraham Lincoln's famous Gettysburg Address comprised of about 270 words

I have been musing on prolixity.

Most politicians think there is not a problem in the world that cannot be solved by more words.

Perhaps the worst offender is President Obama. I have sat through interminable news conferences in the east wing of the White House as the man thought to be the best communicator in the world droned on and on.

This week the Yes campaign felt the need to deploy 170,000 words in its so-called "white paper" to make the case for Scotland's independence.

And yet most politicians fail to realise that brevity can be a political weapon. The fewer the words, the more the politician controls the message.

Brevity gives journalists like me less choice over which quote or clip to report. And pithy is possible. I spend much of my professional life boiling down complex issues into short television reports.

This week I told the latest twist in the complicated plebgate story using just 500 words over two and half minutes.

The best practitioner of concision was obviously Abraham Lincoln. This week Americans celebrated the 150th anniversary of his Gettysburg Address in which he used about 270 words to explain why the union existed and why the civil war had to be won.

Of course, he could have subbed down "four score and seven years" into "eighty seven years" but that surely is the exception that proves the rule.

And to abide by my own rule, here is where this blog should end.