Writing is easy. Good writing is hard. What sounds great in our head can come off as bloated drivel to someone else. Now, the free web app Hemingway can help improve your writing skills. It will highlight the words and phrases you should reconsider, for bold, clear writing.
How to improve your writing with Hemingway
hemingwayapp.com has a simple set of rules to help improve your writing. It will look for long sentences that are hard to read...
...and longer sentences that are very hard to read.
It will also point out adverbs, which can weaken verbs...
...suggest simpler alternatives to complex words and phrases...
...and mark the use of passive voice.
The app uses those five rules to create a readability scale. The scale shows the approximate lowest education level needed to understand the text easily.
Hemingway's default example gets a "Grade 6" rating. This means that someone who finished the 6th grade wouldn't have trouble to understand it. According to the app, anything under Grade 10 is bold and clear writing.
Harder to understand writing can go all the way to post-collegiate.
Hemingway also allows basic text formatting, and will recognize the formatting of pasted text from desktop editors, such as Microsoft Word.
For those of us who aren't always online, Hemingway has a paid desktop editor. It is also the website's sole revenue stream, as we won't find any ads.
One thing that Hemingway doesn't check on our writing is spelling and grammar mistakes. We need to use a separate app for that, such as Grammarly.
Can Hemingway judge good and bad writing?
It's important to understand that Hemingway isn't a literary benchmark. Even parts of Ernest Hemingway's writing get a "poor" grade, according to the Hemingway App. The beginning of the 1923 story "My Old Man" doesn't fare well, at all.
The Hemingway app doesn't pretend to be a literary benchmark. It just points out some common pitfalls, which lower the quality of our writing when overused.
Adverbs are far from worthless in prose. A well-placed adverb can and will help a sentence, or even change its whole meaning. If, however, we are using four adverbs in a single sentence, it isn't good in any capacity.
The same goes for the use of passive voice, complex words and phrases, and long phrases.
Hemingway isn't for writing the next Catcher in the Rye or the Greater Gatsby. If we don't have the talent, the instinct, and the discipline that is required for good writing, no number of apps will fix that.
The primary usefulness of Hemingway is keeping the writer in check. Avoiding the overuse of adverbs, passive voice, and long phrases is a good start on the never-ending journey to improve your writing.
Did Hemingway help you improve your writing?
Whether you liked the app, and it helped you improve your writing skills, or you feel it is too restrictive, leave us a comment.