An App Promises to Help You Write Like Hemingway

Friday, February 14, 2014 - 01:02 PM

Hemingway is a new app that invites you to submit your writing into a text box where it'll be graded based on it's Hemingway-esqueness. 

Both Language Log and The New Yorker tried throwing Ernest Hemingway's writing at the app, and in both cases, naturally, he was rated as being not sufficiently Hemingway-esque. The Language Log in particular tried to untangle the algorithm by which the Hemingway app determines readability, and it seems to be a set of silly/reductive rules.

Yech. This is the sort of thing that invites you to feel generational fatigue. If every generation gets the Hemingway it deserves, our grandparents got Ernest, our parents got Mariel, and all we got was this half-baked app. 

In a way it sort of ties back to that mitten map from earlier this week. They're both examples of ideas whose value lies more in the concept than in the execution (No one will use Hemingway to write like Hemingway, nor is anyone likely to find their lost mitten on the mitten map). The difference with the Hemingway app is that I can't really see why the world needs it, even if it did work. It's an internet gag gift - a shareable headline that can't quite go to the trouble of pretending to be a tool humans might use.


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Comments [2]


If you actually understand some small fraction of grammar rules, it's great for technical, marketing, and news writing. A lot of these industries don't want you to use passive writing or unnecessary words (aka adverbs). If you need to be clear and concise, you'll find use here.

From what I can tell, the app never really claims to make you write like Hemingway. I've seen a lot of stories that make the claim, but the actual app never mentions this. Or am I missing it?

Feb. 14 2014 02:34 PM

I quite like the app. You're right that it's basically a novelty as it stands, but these kinds of features could be integrated into word processors in a good way. This is a way to experiment with the implementation of those. There's a lot of content (not literature, but just the masses of writing on the internet) that would be improved by a cursory pass through a tool like this -- not by rigidly enforcing its rules, but by selecting the improvements that seem most meaningful. First we had spell check, then grammar check, and this is a form of "style check."

Feb. 14 2014 02:07 PM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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