One of my blogging colleagues, Justin Wheeler, told me that he uses the Hemingway app to help keep his writing simple and concise, something that Hemingway was famous for (although I was not aware of that).
To use the app, you can either download an app and then enter your text into the app to get feedback. Or, you can simply enter your text into an online version of the app and then get feedback. Created by the brothers Adam and Ben Long
, the app analyzes text and is designed to “make your writing bold and clear.” The program highlights overly complicated words and suggests alternatives; calls out adverbs, difficult-to-read sentences (from hard to read to very hard to read) and instances of the passive voice.
The Hemingway app uses a formula to judge the “reading level” of a particular selection of writing, which is “a measure of how complex the sentence structure is and how big the words you’re using are.” The app suggests that anything under Grade 10 is a sign of “bold, clear writing.”
So I decided to see if I have the potential to be the next Hemingway (minus the bullfights and sport fishing). I entered my post from yesterday
about the tremendous amount of kindness we experienced while in Cleveland for the weekend.
Here are screen shots of the post again, highlighted this time to show you what Hemingway called out.
And here is what all the colors mean, and my overall score:
The app suggests that anything under Grade 10 is a sign of “bold, clear writing.” So mine was OK, but I decided to see if I could make things better. To keep it simple, I jut picked the following section that was deemed to hard to read and tried to rewrite it in a more Hemingway-like way.
After parking our car and trying to figure out which way to go to get to the tour, a young woman noted our looks of confusion (a specialty of mine), and asked where we were trying to get to. We told her, and then she said she was heading in that direction, and walked the full 10-15 minutes with us to get to the tour, even though that was not her destination. Along the way, she told us all about the local neighborhood, recommended a few places to eat close by, and told us about other points of interest in the Cleveland area.
We parked our car and began searching for the venue. A woman noticed our confusion and offered to walk with us to the entrance of the event. Along the way, the woman told us about the neighborhood, including places to eat as well as places to visit in Cleveland.
And here is what the app told me this time:
So a bit of an improvement, from Grade 8 to Grade 6. And I decided to give it one more edit, to see if I could make all the suggested changes.
Along the way, the woman told us about the neighborhood, including places to eat as well as places to visit in Cleveland.
She also told us about the neighborhood, including places to eat as well as places to visit in Cleveland.
And this time, the app had no suggested changes:
It’s interesting that the grade level went up to 7, even though it has no “errors”. I’m actually not sure if an increase in grade level represents a decrease in quality or not, but the app seems to suggest that.
I also can’t say if the revised paragraph is actually any better than the original; it would be nice to hear what an English teacher would have to say.
Anyway it was an interesting exercise, and it certainly makes the point that the best way to become a better writer is to write, rewrite, and rewrite again.