Should you trust the Hemingway App writing tool? Part 1.

Hemingway screen of this post in progress. Pic: Marian Edmunds

Hemingway screen of this post in progress. Pic: Marian Edmunds

Is your copy ‘very’ hard to read? Get your text edited on the Hemingway App by an experienced editor.

An friend told me they use the Hemingway App but still end up with a lot of red highlighted text. Red highlights mean the sentence is ‘very hard to read’. The purple highlighting of ‘very’ means that Hemingway App recommends a simpler word alternative.

I have a simpler alternative which is not to use the word ‘very’. I stopped using it ‘very’ soon into my training as a journalist. In print journalism every word counts and ‘very’ has no value. Here is an example.
You could say“It is very cold.” Or you could say:

It is: chilly, cool, freezing, icy, snowy, glacial, wintry, crisp, frosty, frigid, bitter, cold, biting, piercing, numbing, sharp, raw, polar, arctic, or Siberian (but only in Siberia).

screenshot-2016-10-25-13-26-35The exception to the ‘very’ rule is if quoting direct speech. I won’t choose a quote containing ‘very’ unless it is otherwise compelling. I would look for a direct quote that gives the reader a sense of the speaker and what they are describing. ‘Very’ pales beside a strong descriptive word.

“Very. Use this word sparingly. Where emphasis is necessary use words strong in themselves.”

William Strunk and E.B. White, The Elements of Style.

My friend said he couldn’t see how to cut more red highlighting from his text. I could see it. Streamlining his text and removing adverbs (another post) made his writing voice distinctive.

It’s not compulsory to remove all red highlights. You are within your rights to include sentences that are ‘very’ hard to read if they express what you would like to say and are of use, or enjoyment, to your reader. Enjoyment doesn’t alway mean simple. Think of the best plays or Shakespeare.

You are the authority but do you need help?

Can you rely on the Hemingway App? It depends on how you use it. The Hemingway App is a tool, not an authority. Improving your readability helps your readers. They are your business. You are the master of your readability. I want to help you with editing to make your copy, bold, clear and fun to read.

I will send your copy as text and the Hemingway App version. Receive great copy that contains few, if any adverbs, and no jargon or excess words.

Marian Edmunds
I write with you or for you.