01 July, 2015

Hemingway App

There was an article in last month's Writing Magazine about useful online tools for writers. I'm not much a one for this sort of thing, but one of the suggested sites intrigued me. Hemingway App is a website whcih aims to help you write simply - no more purple prose, excess adverbs or complicated sentences.

Ernest Hemingway was famous for the simplicity and sparse beauty of his writing. On this website you can paste (or type) your work-in-progress into the text box and receive an immediate analysis. The things highlighted include sentences that are hard to read, or very hard to read, phrases that have simpler alternatives, adverbs and use of the passive voice.

Obviously, you could never use this tool to make editorial decisions about your work. There are plenty of times when you want an adverb, a long sentence or to speak passively. Aside from being a bit of fun however, it is genuinely interesting to see your work analysed in this way. If I can put my pride aside I think I shall use it when I come to edit my next completed piece of work - not as a definitive rule book, but as a guide as to where I could tighten up my writing.

As an example, here is an analysis of the first draft of the first chapter of my novel-in-progress...


I'm not too ashamed of this. I will go and cut one or two of those adverbs however, and re-think my first paragraph - one hard and two very hard to read sentences is probably not an ideal hook! I'm pleased that I have no phrases which have simpler alternatives - this is one way I've tried to tighten my writing in the past.

I haven't looked into how the app works in terms of the analysis - for example, why 27 or fewer uses of the passive voice is the ideal number for this passage - but I expect I'll play around a bit more as time goes on. There are some interesting features as well, such as an estimated read-time for the passage (6:13 minutes for my chapter if you're interested). So why not have a poke round for yourself, or just spend one minute putting your latest blog post or short story into the website and see how you do? Go on - I dare you!

6 comments:

  1. I plan to try it but as you say it wouldn't be wise to place to much reliance on the something based on a writer with a very particular style, especially from so long ago.

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    1. And especially a computerised version of what analysts think that writer wrote like!

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  2. OMG! This is amazing. I love it. Thanks so much for sharing! Exactly the sort of thing I like. It confirmed a few things I knew about the odd, overly complex sentence in my short story. A nice way to tidy up.

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    1. HA, I love it to. I feel I might get a bit addicted to it. It's taught me a bit about complex sentences already.

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  3. I found Hemingway a couple of weeks ago. I like it because when it tells me I've written something very hard to read, it makes me think about why I've written it that way. If I can justify it, maybe because the phrasing is supposed to have a particular effect, then fair enough, it stays in. However, it's made me think about my writing and its effect, which I guess is a good thing!

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    1. Yes, that's kind of how I'm using it too. I think as a writer, thinking about why you've use certain words or a particular tone can make such a huge difference. It's too tempting to be lazy and just write without thinking!

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