We talk a lot about ideas here on SciFi Ideas. I guess the name obliges us to. But what we don’t talk about so often is how best to apply those ideas to paper (or screen).
Not everybody who visits the site is a writer. Those of you who are have varying levels of expertise with the written word, and many of you occupy different wavelengths on the amateur-professional spectrum. But, writer or not, amateur or pro, I recently stumbled upon something which could be useful to us all. It’s called Hemingway Editor, and it’s both nifty and free.
(I literally stumbled upon it using Stumble Upon. Feel free to share and upvote our articles on Stumble Upon, by the way!)
Hemmingway is an on-line tool that offers a basic critique of any selection of writing you paste into it. There are lots of these things out there, but I’m finding this one to be particularly user-friendly, mostly due to its simplicity.
Rather than criticizing your grammar – which most word-processors do already – Hemingway instead gives you hints on how to improve the quality and readability of your writing. More precisely, it highlights areas that require extra attention, and those aren’t always easy to spot in your own work. When you proofread your prose (or should I say if you proofread your prose) you aren’t necessarily getting a typical user experience. Since you share a brain with the author, it’s hard to be objective.
Of course, this tool is by no means equal or equivalent to having somebody read your work and give you an honest opinion, but it will help you squeeze a little more out of that second draft.
The focus of this program is on readability, clarity being the primary goal of most writers, and the old adage “less is more” being true in most cases. It assesses the readability of your writing in five ways and highlights instances of each in the document. The five issues at point here are long sentences, ridiculously long sentences, use of adverbs, phrases that can be shortened, and that droning passive voice we all find ourselves using from time to time.
I’ve been using Hemingway for a few weeks now, sneakily judging it while it judges me. Although we’ve had our disagreements, it’s certainly been a helpful tool.
At first, I was annoyed by all the blue and purple markings, indicating use of adverbs and ‘phrases that can be shortened’ respectively. Nobody likes it when machines try to stifle our creativity. No writer likes it when they’re told to use fewer words, and adding superfluous description is sometimes part of the artistry of the craft.
But the more I used Hemingway the more I realised it wasn’t so much criticising me as offering me opportunities to sharpen my prose. It encouraged me to use words and phrases that were not only more efficient but also more effective. For example: in the previous paragraph I used the word ‘superfluous’. Initially I’d intended to write ‘extra and unneccessary’, but Hemingway told me I could do better, so I did.
Incidentally, I’ve been running this article through Hemingway continuously while writing it, and it probably won’t surprise you to learn that chunks of it have been highlighted in yellow and red, meaning that my sentences are too long (this one especially). Did you find this article difficult to read? Without Hemingway, it would be much worse.
I encourage you all to give Hemingway a try. All writers can benefit from having a second set of eyes review their work, no matter how experienced or professional they are. Since we can’t all afford the myriad benefits of a human editor, this mechanical one will have to do.
You can try Hemingway at www.hemingwayapp.com. It’s free!
How do you edit and proofread your work? Do you use any special tools, and can you recommend one? Tell us about it in the comments below.
P.S – Before anybody asks, no I haven’t been paid to endorse Hemingway, unfortunately 🙁