Web app for writers channels the spirit of Hemingway
The text you see when you go to Hemingway
Hemingway is a simple web app designed to help writers write simpler copy. You can't save documents, share them, organize them or comment on them. You just paste in your text, follow its advice, and copy it to get it out again. But it's very effective.
It works by highlighting problem text:
- Sentences that are hard to read in yellow
- Very hard to read in red
- Adverbs in blue
- Words with simpler alternatives in purple
- Use of the passive voice in green
The app knows that the passive voice and adverbs aren't always bad. It recommends a quota of each based on the length of your piece of writing.
Ben and Adam Long made the app. They named it after Ernest Hemingway, who was famous for his uncomplicated style of writing.
As you've guessed, I edited this story in Hemingway before publication. I tried to write a simple first draft, but it still found problems. To begin with, it scored grade 11 (OK). By the end I got it down to 4. Anything under 10 is good.
Writers could do worse than try Hemingway. You wouldn't want to edit thousands of words at once, but it's excellent for a few hundred at a time. You might not want to take all its advice, but it will catch things you want to change.
The Longs are working on a desktop version which will add the ability to open and save text files. I hope it's as useful.
About the Author
James lives in East London where he punctuates endless tea drinking with freelance writing and meteorological angst. Unlocking Every Extend Extra Extreme’s “Master of Extreme” achievement was the fourth proudest moment of his life.
All articles by James Holloway
Perhaps the app is offline due to demand, or perhaps it's just not working for me, but I couldn't see how to enter text.
@J.D. Ray, you can edit the example text. Just pretend it in a text box (area) with the same color as the background of the page.
J.D., you're overthinking it. Just click and start typing. The page IS the app.
I love it!
Actually the app takes away from any distinctive personality of the writer. Try the app on a passage from Dickens. It ranked the first few paragraphs from Tale of Two Cities a horrible grade. Unless all the users of this app are the writers of Mills and Boons kind of books. In which case, I guess it may be ok.
Apps are supposed to make things better in the world. Not worse.
I agree it should be used with discretion, but not all writing is creative writing. Sometimes absolute clarity is key. And forgive me, but I had to chuckle a little at your Tale of Two Cities example - a book famous for its rambling first sentence:
"It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way--in short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only."
There's a reason the app isn't called Dickens.
In fact, simply by changing the punctuation I got that passage down to a grade 2. Dickens would doubtless turn in his grave, but I don't think it robs it of its personality. I don't agree clear writing has to be soulless...
It was the best of times. It was the worst of times. It was the age of wisdom. It was the age of foolishness. It was the epoch of belief. It was the epoch of incredulity. It was the season of Light. It was the season of Darkness. It was the spring of hope. It was the winter of despair. We had everything before us. We had nothing before us. We were all going direct to Heaven. We were all going direct the other way. In short, the period was so far like the present period, that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.
Over 160,000 people receive our email newsletter
See the stories that matter in your inbox every morning