How to Write for the Internet, Even if You’re Incurably Long-Winded

Since it’s now common knowledge that people who read online content prefer short sentences, long-winded writers have had a tough time. Writers whose style naturally gravitates towards multiple clauses and complex sentence construction have had to adjust their writing styles, big-time.

Good thing there’s a tool for that: Hemingway Editor is an easy-to use writing tool that’s designed to improve writing style and readability. Obviously, the tool was named after Ernest Hemingway, who was apparently decades ahead of his time with his famously short, internet-ready sentences:

““All right. Now he would not care for death. One thing he had always dreaded was the pain.”

Ernest Hemingway, The Snows of Kilimanjaro

What Does it Do?

The Hemingway Editor helps writers transform their copy from unapproachable jungles of thick, densely constructed sentences to shorter, more palatable versions.

I can’t suggest strongly enough that if you’re a writer, you should use this tool.

But I’m one to talk. The huge irony here is that, after writing this post, I ran it through the Hemingway Editor and the tool pretty much had a heart attack. Take a look. Where you see colors is where there’s a problem:

As you can see, Hemingway Editor thinks my text needs to be almost completely rewritten!

Running your writing through the tool is easy, but what happens now?

Here’s how to use Hemingway Editor, from start to finish. You’ll learn what it does, how it works, and how you can put it to work for you to make your writing even better.

Easily See Where Your Writing Needs to Improve – in Real Time

Hemingway Editor’s user-friendly online interface allows writers to compose in and toggle between write and edit modes, and easily see the ways in which their writing style is weak.

Write mode is clutter-free and intended for straight text editing. Clicking edit mode immediately illuminates the words, phrases or sentences where errors might be found.

The Automated Readability Index is applied to your text through Hemingway Editor. This is a long-established and generally accepted standard of writing.

What do All Those Colors Signify?

Color-coded highlighting illustrates the type of problem present in the text, if there is one. For example, sentences that are hard to read are highlighted in red. Passive voice is marked in green, adverbs are blue, and complex phrases are purple.

Hemingway Editor makes it very easy for writers to visually identify the common types of problems in their work. By increasing their awareness of what kind of errors they’re making, writers can avoid the same errors going forward. For example, if passage after passage is awash in a sea of red, then you’ll notice that complex sentence structure may be a natural characteristic of your work, and something you need to keep in mind going forward. Whereas if your work has many instances of green “ink”, then passive voice is your nemesis.

A Sea of Colors – What Now?

You see a lot of issues in your text. Now it’s time to fix them. Hover the mouse over any highlighted section for very brief indication of the error or issue to change or click OK to let it be.

For example, hover over an adverb, and the pop-up box suggests, “Qualifier: Be bold. Don’t hedge.” It’s always okay to override any error suggestion; but, be aware that doing so may affect the readability statistics.

Actually Train Your Brain to Write More Effectively

In addition to stylistic suggestions, there’s a readability rubric that’s applied. Text is assessed based on grade level, and assigned a descriptor (for example, Good).

Statistics regarding word, letter, character, sentence, and paragraph count are provided. Hemingway also estimates the reading time of a passage.

Working in edit mode, with readability statistics in view the whole time, is a reminder for writers to be aware of audience, tone, and writing style when composing text.

If you’re writing in the edit mode, it’s easy to eyeball evaluations of grade level, word count, etc., as they fluctuate in response to edits made. Doing so will “train” your brain to incorporate some of the key evaluation criteria and develop new habits in line with stronger writing habits.

And who wouldn’t want all that?

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Get Something Your Word Processing App Can’t Give You

Hemingway Editor offers readability statistics that aren’t necessarily built into typical word processing application functions. The app is especially useful for writers who have good working knowledge and proficiency with general rules of grammar and syntax. This tool helps writers improve writing style and accessibility.

Want to try it yourself? There’s a desktop app to download; you can also copy and paste into the online application, or write directly in the web-based version.