Full Disclosure: Hemingway is my favorite writer. He has been since I read him in high school. And I’d be lying if I said it was just because of his writing, though it is good. The best, in fact. There is no question that a man’s man, an adventurer and sportsman who drank too much and loved too much has strong appeal to a high school boy, himself trying to be a man’s man. Let us just say some thirty years on that the draw of Hemingway is the writing, and that the swashbuckling aura is a cool bonus.
I never really thought much about why I loved Hemingway, and I certainly never thought about what about his technique appealed to me. I remember reading The Old Man And The Sea in high school; the book stood out for an unknown reason -a reason I recognize now as utter simplicity. It cut through the Faulkners and the Melvilles and the Thoreaus. The directness of voice grabbed me. While he hardly lived that way, Hemingway wrote in very straight lines.
I am finishing a read of The Complete Short Stories , and i find I am digging a little more now, asking what specifically I love about the writing. I’ve already given away the general answer, but when surfing the internet this weekend putting off this year’s tax return, I came across a way of explaining it, capturing it even.
Behold The Hemingway App, created by Adam and Ben Long, and designed to help turn any writer more Hemingway-like. You simply copy and paste your prose into the app, and a virtual Papa grades your work:
While it may not be a complete list, this cool little app whispers five basic rules of Hemingway’s writing in the grading bar on the right:
- Write stuff easy to read.
- See rule number 1.
- Edit looking for simpler alternatives.
- Kill the adverbs.
- Avoid use of passive voice.
Not a bad writers’ guide – like Hemingway’s style, it is simple.
A note of warning: do not ever confuse simple with easy. Hemingway hated to talk about the craft of writing, but he did offer this much: “There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed.” Easy reading is not the dividend of easy writing, it is the dividend of writing simply, which is hard.