As I’ve mentioned in a previous post, I was very reluctant to try a creative writing self-help book. So you can imagine my reaction to hearing about the Hemingway app.
“An app which professes to make you a better author? How dare you!” I cried in dismay.
Here’s the thing
It works. Let me qualify that statement. It won’t improve your plot or characters, and your writing style is entirely your own to play with. But what it will do is improve the reader’s experience. Not just fiction authors, it’ll work for bloggers too.
What it does
It’s simple to use. You copy something you’ve written and paste it into the text box. That’s all happening on the home page. There’s no need to press any buttons and it’s free. I’m sure there’s a paid version, but I don’t see why you’d need it. That’s how you know they’re not paying me to write this. Hold onto your money!
Once the text is in the box parts of it will be highlighted in one of five colours. There’s a useful legend on the right which tells you what these colours mean. Essentially, it’s showing you how what you’ve written can be streamlined.
Text is highlighted as:
- Hard to read: this means you can delete a superfluous word or two to improve the flow.
- Very hard to read: this will require more serious editing to hold the reader’s attention.
- Phrases with similar alternatives: a reader might find a long word confusing, so the Hemingway app suggests a shorter option.
- Adverbs: e.g. “quickly”, some writers detest these and think a story reads better if they’re completely omitted.
- Passive voice: e.g. “Bob was hit by Ned” rather than “Ned hit Bob”, the passive voice can slow down the story’s pace.
Where it gets interesting
What I like most about this app is that it isn’t telling you how to write. When text is highlighted it also tells you, for example, how many adverbs you used and what your upper limit should be.
So you can keep that one complicated sentence with its long words, adverbs and passive voice if you really love it. The app is just suggesting what the ideal middle-ground is between readability and eloquence. I feel like its aim is to make your writing enjoyable for as wide an audience as possible, without turning it into something you wouldn’t recognise as your own.
I think you should see if you like it (follow this link). I’d neither recommend nor condemn it. It’s just something you might find useful.
Let me know in the comments if any of this was useful. Do you have any writing tips to share?