In which I discover the Hemingway Writing App

I am deeply cynical about automatic writing analysis – you know, those annoying online systems that ‘mark’ your writing for various arbitrary flaws.

Take the Hemingway Writing app. It’s an online tool that ‘makes your writing bold and clear’, according to its own blurb. So I thought I’d write a short test passage which – curiously – got top marks. It had the most accessible reading age, no sentence was hard to read, nothing had a simpler alternative, there was no passive voice, and therefore the passage contained not one single flaw, according to the app. A great piece of writing, apparently.

Uh – really?

Wright_Hemingway

Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015


16 thoughts on “In which I discover the Hemingway Writing App

  1. You are brilliant, Matthew — and hilarious. Thank you for starting my day with a huge smile!
    PS: If you can set your prose to music I predict you’ll have a big hit.

  2. Haha! Maybe the app just couldn’t cope and threw up it’s virtual mitts. I wonder why it didn’t notice the repetition. In any case, I find this encouraging. Chalk one up for the Brain.

  3. Hemingway would turn in his grave.

    I just entered an extract from For Whom the Bell Tolls: 4 out 5 sentences difficult to read, 2 out of 5 sentences very difficult to read, 3 adverbs (they recommend Hemingway should only have used 1), and 2 uses of the passive voice, which is below their recommended minimum of 3, so obviously Hemingway got it right now and again. Overall grade of 10,

    It begs the question: what is the point of something like this? To gain anything from it, you’d have to be a bit hopeless to begin with.

    1. I can’t see what use the app is at all, except as a device for giving one lesson to total noob beginner writers. Once. It has no way of differentiating real sentences from gibberish, and all I can suppose is that it looks for -ly endings and counts them. I suppose it has a certain ‘fun factor’ associated with gaming it, but that’s about it really…

  4. I read in an article Hemingway didn’t have much knowledge about linguistics, he just had a natural way with words. Which is the way to go, frankly. Grammur is overrated and open to interpretation, which I’ve found out since writing for American and English sites. Aiiiiiie.

    1. I think Hemingway had a natural talent – and I suspect he knew a lot more about the technique than he let on. His ability to take the style direction of early twentieth century journalism (simplify and remove adjectives) and apply it to fiction was tremendous. It was a general trend at the time, but I think he led the wave.

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