Write like Hemingway
The Hemingway App is an online editing app that edits your work based on the style of simplicity and directness favoured by the famous author, Ernest Hemingway.
The desktop app was originally released in mid 2014, and developers are currently testing out a new beta with significant improvements.
Lauded as the saviour from frivolous adverbs and run-on sentences, Hemingway might just be the perfect tool for experts / writers who fall more on the former side of the slash. It’s perfectly OK to be less of a ‘writer’ as long as you tap into the right tools that can make your work better — and Hemingway is one of those.
The app has a strong focus on readability.
A colour-coded editing system highlights sentences or paragraphs that detract from the readability of your piece; yellow for complex sentences, red for extremely complex sentences. Also highlighted, are adverbs and passive voice. Hemingway himself was a great fan of simplicity.
My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
The app encourages you to fewer adverbs and fewer overcomplicated words. And — helpfully — suggests alternatives to you when you hold your mouse over the offending word.
All of these combined give the piece a ‘readability’ grade that should ideally (according to the app) be at the tenth grade reading level. The developers chose this 15-16 year old readability score because it’s the average reading level for adults in the US.
Complex is not better. On the app’s scoring algorithm, Ernest Hemingway’s work was as low as fifth grade in places, despite his adult audience, and sometimes complex and compelling stories. And for non-fiction — when accessibility it key, readability is a good proxy for ease of understanding.
Less than total perfection
There are several drawbacks to the Hemingway app, of course. Firstly, the longer your project gets, the less impact flaws have on your overall grade — supporting the quantity over quality paradigm, which is a pity.
Secondly, the app is not great with context – if something is a direct quote, it still highlights the mistake, and it does struggle a bit with the passive voice.
Lastly, it is does minimise a writer’s personal style – James Joyce, I’m sure, would have had a hard time grappling with the Hemingway app while writing Ulysses – and doesn’t allow a lot of room for creative prose.
However, for standard non-fiction writing — online articles, blog posts and e-books, and to test sections from your longer book, it’s a very solid editing formula.
What we like about the Hemingway App
The short paragraphs, uncomplicated sentence structure and strict reining-in of excessive use of adverbs, passive voice and superfluous language, makes for perfect online copy.
What’s more, for shorter pieces such as blog posts, the accuracy will be high, delivery a snappy, direct article, from even the least confident of writers.
I am a huge fan of simplicity and it can be harder to achieve than complexity. More effort in refining and restraining your creative self. In Hemingway’s own words:
Write the best story that you can and write it as straight as you can.
If you’re looking for a good, all-round grammar and style editing app for a mac or pc, the Hemingway app would be hard to beat.
Do you have a favourite editing app? Let us know on social media.