“My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.” – Ernest Hemingway
I can get behind that. “Papa” Hemingway’s novels are masterpieces of verbal economy—perennial favorites on high school reading lists because of their brevity. You read Hemingway, and you just know he must have foreseen our Twitter feed attention spans a mile off. The guy was ahead of his time.
And whether you love or hate him, you can learn from Hemingway. After all, nobody’s sitting through the oral gymnastics of Dickensian syntax in a 140-character world. Writing like Hemingway means writing with a journalist’s eye and paring your prose down to stark impact.
Enter the Hemingway App.
The Hemingway App gives you a readability level. It counts adverbs. It highlights passive voice and makes you aware—sometimes painfully so—of your (okay, my) tendency towards overwriting. Check out what it revealed about my previous paragraphs:
Does that mean you should scrap every draft? Take up bullfighting, write while intoxicated, eliminate everything but brief, brutal facts? Of course not. Developing your personal style is important. But Hemingway isn’t going to sweet talk you around taking a hard look at your favorite writing crutches. If nothing else, the Hemingway App provides food for thought.
Try it. If it hurts, remember what Hemingway said about the first draft of anything. (I’ll let you Google that one. After all, Hemingway is not for the faint of heart.)
Merry Gordon is silently correcting your grammar. A freelance editor and writer, Merry also has nearly two decades of experience teaching English at the high school and junior college level.
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