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Write like Hemingway

Dom Habersack
Dom HabersackOctober 9, 2019
A person typing on a typewriter.
Hemingway didn’t have Grammarly and still did fine.

Writing is best when it is easily understood by readers. Long sentences and fancy words do not make for a pleasant reading experience. Everything I write goes through an extensive editing phase to improve its readability.

Ernest Hemingway’s style was clear and direct. We can improve our own writing by applying some of his rules. Here are six tips you can start using today.

Tip 1: Write for the average reader.

The average person reads at a tenth-grade level. Text aimed at higher levels is confusing and tedious for many readers.

Tip 2: Write like a regular person.

Do not utilize big words when there are simpler alternatives. Prefer simple over complicated words, like “use” instead of “utilize”.

Tip 3: Use short sentences.

If you use a lot of very long sentences in your writing, your readers will have a hard time following them from beginning to end. Split long sentences into many smaller ones.

Tip 4: Be bold.

For a more assertive tone, maybe avoid weakening phrases. Remove qualifiers that make you sound unsure.

Tip 5: Show action.

Rewrite all of your sentences that have been written in passive voice. Use active instead of passive voice.

Tip 6: Use fewer adverbs.

While adding color, a lot of adverbs are surprisingly unnecessary. Most adverbs are not important and can be removed.

Bonus tip: Check your writing.

This editor was inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s minimalist writing style: http://hemingwayapp.com

I run my texts through it to learn which areas I need to rewrite. It shows which sentences are too long and which words have easier alternatives. After a few iterations, my posts and mails are much easier to read. It’s a super cool tool I wouldn’t want to write without anymore. If you do any longform writing, give it a try. It is excellent for blog posts, JIRA tickets, or documentation.

They have a paid downloadable version, but the free online version works just fine. As you use it, you will find that you get used to the patterns this leads you towards. Over time, your writing will naturally improve.

I published a post on writing better user stories this week. Combine that post with the Hemingway editor and you are well on your way to write better tickets!

– Dom

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