Hello, Hemingway!

This week I discovered the most wonderful app on the planet. If I’d had this, I wonder if I’d needed to spend all those $$$ on an MFA . . . just kidding. But seriously, this app can be extremely helpful in pinpointing some of the weaknesses in your writing.

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It’s called the Hemingway Editor. You pull it up and the instructions explain that you can either copy and paste in your already drafted work, or type directly onto the screen after clicking the “Write” button.

Then you click the “Edit” button, and magic happens.

Hemingway tells you the readability of your piece and the corresponding grade level.

FYI: Statistics say that the average reading level of the American public is at the 7-8th grade. If your writing is much above that, many readers will see your work as too “literary” and put the book down.

Because of my scientific background, I tend to write “above” the reading level of most casual readers–i.e., long, complicated sentences with way too much detail. My first drafts read more like scientific papers than novels. I know this about myself, but I can’t help it. And when I’m going through my drafts to self-edit, I can’t see it either.

This nifty app puts it all out there–in technicolor. Sentences that are too long or complex are yellow. If your sentence is highlighted in red (which looks pink on my screen), it means it’s way too complex and needs to be broken up or simplified. A purple highlight means the phrase has a “shorter alternative.” Green means use of passive voice as opposed to active. Blue marks adverbs.

But here’s the niftiest part: Hemingway calculates, based on your word count, how many of each of these things are “acceptable.” For example, when I first pasted in the Prologue of my WIP, the toolbar on the right side told me I had used 31 adverbs. For the length of my piece, 21 was considered the goal.

Now, if I were to change every single thing about my Prologue that Hemingway told me to, it would have made it too simplistic. There would have been no variation of sentence structure. If you always use the simplest sentence structure, your prose will be choppy and will lull the reader to sleep.

It will kill your original “voice.”

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I know I tend to write very long, convoluted sentences. I’m big on adverbs, and I get carried away with descriptions. But that’s me. It’s my writing style, my voice. So I may ignore a few of Hemingway’s yellow and blue highlights.

But the red/pink ones? I’m going in and simplifying.

To be clear, this does not seem to be a surefire way to eliminate typos, grammatical errors or the like from your work. But it does analyze the piece for readability. And we all want our books to be very readable, right?

Also, the app swears your work is not saved. I can’t say I completely believe them. But I’ve come far enough in this journey called “author” to know that someone stealing your work, or even your ideas, is the least of your problems.

Check it out!

About Claire Gem

Claire is a multi-published, award winning author of both fiction and nonfiction. A native of New York, USA, she now resides in Massachusetts, USA with her husband of 39 years.
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4 Responses to Hello, Hemingway!

  1. Susan J Berger says:

    I’m using Pro Writing aid for the same purpose.

  2. Beth Carter says:

    How cool. I hadn’t heard about this. Thanks for the heads up. I’ll try it. It would be fun to compare earlier books to novels we’ve recently written. I tend to avoid adverbs as much as possible because every author at every conference drills that into our head.

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