This week we’d like to introduce you an app designed in the spirit of one of America’s greatest literary treasures. Ernest Hemingway was known for the severity of his prose, unmarked by qualifiers and complex phrases. Hemingway App, a text editor you can use on the web and or by downloading it, takes this philosophy and uses it to help you write simpler and more accessible prose. Using data analysis, it checks your writing for clarity and simplicity. (You might have heard of this app already from The New Yorker, in a piece about how Hemingway himself would have been edited under the rules he inspired.)
Imagine if Papa himself were standing over your shoulder and proofing your work. Though you won’t be smelling the rich aroma of his cigar, you will witness a stark change in your writing. The app analyzes your text for sentence length, complexity of vocabulary, adverb use, and passive voice.
Of course, the app will only tell you what’s wrong with your prose. It’s up to you to figure out how to fix it. In that sense, you can’t be completely dependent on its powers. It still takes strength as a writer to be able to make those corrections, but the value of having someone (like Hemingway) point them out is incalculable.
Ideally, its suggestions will make your writing “bold and clear,” as the site professes. Though this approach may not be preferable for scholarly work, it’s helpful especially for web content. Writing for the web means writing succinctly, and packing every sentence with a punch. Few readers on the web want pedantry.
As a matter of fact, I ran this post through the editor. It scored a readability of “grade 9.” According to the Help page, a grade 10 or lower is optimal. (This means anyone on an American tenth-grade reading level can understand what you’re saying.) Of all the feedback Hemingway Editor offers, the most helpful is the reminder that complex, didactic writing does not constitute good writing. Good writing sends a clear message without without convolution.
As a larger point, technology once again reveals to us things we might otherwise have forgotten. The world of the web is not always meant to distract and dismay, but sometimes to help.
After all, everyone can learn something from Papa.