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February 24, 2014 / carlispina

Edit Your Writing With the Hemingway App

Fans of “bold and clear” prose may be pleased to learn of the new Hemingway app. This web app aims to edit your writing to make it more like Hemingway’s signature style. When you enter text in the app, either by typing it in or by pasting it from another file, Hemingway identifies sentences that are difficult to read, adverbs, complicated words and instances of the passive tense. Each of these “problems” with the text is highlighted in its own color and added to a tally that appears at the right side of the screen. At the same time, the overall passage is given a “grade,” which is the educational level necessary to understand the passage. Hemingway recommends that all writing should be a Grade 10 or below in order to be “bold, clear writing.” As an example, this paragraph received a grade of 11. The right side of the screen also includes statistics about the piece, including the number of paragraphs, sentences, words and characters.

HemingwayAppIn addition to highlighting issues, the app will suggest ways to rewrite in order to avoid the use of passive voice and will also give options for simpler words where the app has identified words that are too complex. You can also toggle between writing and editing mode so that you can rewrite sentences to address other issues that the app points out. To make editing easier, you can also turn on or off each of the types of problems that Hemingway identifies. This is a nice feature since it means you can decide that you don’t care about the passive voice in a particular passage and easily remove those suggestions with one click.

Hemingway is an interesting approach to automated editing and it does offer advice for a certain style of writing, which is its purpose. I’m not sure that I would recommend accepting its suggestions wholesale, but I do think that this shows what can be done with online editing programs. Right now the creators of the Hemingway app are polling users to gauge interest in a Desktop version of the tool, so I recommend checking this app out now if that is something that interests you. You can also check out another analysis of the tool by Ian Crouch of the New Yorker.


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