The editing tip for this month comes from master student, Brenda Krygowski. I first met Brenda at a Florida Writers Association event in Tampa a couple of years ago when she purchased two of my online editing programs. Since then, she has invested in herself and bought every online program I have available. Now, she’s working her way through the videos, improving her writing every step of the way. Great job, Brenda!
I shared this photo of Brenda some months back because she has found a way to improve her writing skills in the midst of a busy life as a professional, wife, and mother. She combined exercise and study and watches the various videos while riding her stationary bicycle. That’s brilliant!
Brenda recently told me about a free online app called the Hemingway Editor, designed to make “your writing bold and clear.” Ernest Hemingway was known for his simple, direct, no-frills writing style, and this app compares your writing to Hemingway’s standards.
The Hemingway Editor also assigns a readability level, the US grade required to understand your text. Back in journalism school in the early 1970s, we were taught to write to a sixth-grade level. Some of Ernest Hemingway’s writing comes in at grade level five even though he is writing for an adult audience. That just means his writing is low on the complexity scale.
Now, I’m not saying Hemingway’s style of writing is the way to go. Personally, I enjoy a bit of adornment in my writing and the prose I read, but I do agree with much of what the app points out. It highlights all those nasty adverbs in blue. It points out in purple where a simpler word might be better than a complex one. The app also strives to root out passive verbs. On all counts, I wholeheartedly agree.
Because of my more descriptive style, I figured the Hemingway Editor would burn up evaluating my text, but I was surprised. I had the app evaluate the first few paragraphs of my memoir, and I didn’t do so bad by Papa’s standards. The app thought two of my sentences were hard to read. It pointed out my one adverb and noted that I fell below the acceptable limit of two for the text I entered, and it said I could use a simpler word in one instance.
Okay, I can live with those results, but my two complex sentences stand. I like them, and in the end, we are the final say of our work. That’s the requirement—once you know the rules, then you can break them if need be.
The Hemingway Editor is a useful tool, but it’s not a replacement for knowing the principles of good writing and editing. It also points out possible problems but does not suggest corrections. The app is worth taking out for a spin: Hemingway Editor. The online version is free, and a desktop version sells for $19.99.