Creators of the Hemingway App Explain Their Rules for Writing
This week, in the Times, Charles McGrath wrote about a newly digitized collection of ephemera from Ernest Hemingway’s Cuban estate, Finca Vigía, which confirms that the famously terse writer was, as McGrath says, “a hoarder.” Ticket stubs, telegrams, Christmas cards, diary entries—all of it amassed in the twenty-plus years that Hemingway kept his house there. Amid the collection, McGrath identifies two notes that Hemingway had seemingly written to himself, in pencil. One reads: “You can phrase things clearer and better.” And the other: “You can remove words which are unnecessary and tighten up your prose.”
The above paragraph scored an “O.K.” in Hemingway, an app, created by the brothers Adam and Ben Long, which analyzes text and, as it promises, “makes your writing bold and clear.” The program highlights overly complicated words and suggests alternatives (my “all of it” could have simply been “all”). It also calls out adverbs (“newly,” “famously, “”seemingly”), difficult-to-read sentences (the first being “very” hard to read, while the second was just hard), and instances of the passive voice.