The Hemingway App

My husband turned me on to an app that may help children when learning to write. It’s called the Hemingway App.  It’s supposed to help you write effectively for the most general audience. It is not a grammar or punctuation editing tool. I would say it’s best to use on your final draft, as it is useful for pointing out trends and habits in a writing piece. It even points out bad habits, like using too many adverbs or writing sentences that are too long.

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I pasted in one of my writing pieces to give it a try, and the page lit up like a Christmas tree. At first, I will admit, I was dubious and a little defensive. I’ve always considered myself a decent writer!

The app highlights in yellow the sentences that are ‘hard to read.’ It highlights in red the sentences that are ‘very hard to read.’  Blue shows your use of adverbs and purple shows words or phrases that can be simplified.  Green highlights the passive voice (i.e. would be, or might have). The app also shows readability, indicating the lowest level of education needed to understand the text with the goal at Grade 10 or below. Mine was at Grade 11!

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I went through the exercise and edited my piece. The final result? I have to say, it made me really think about how I write. It made me review what the best and clearest way to say things. With the exception of one adverb and one use of passive voice, I succeeded in making my writing more clear and concise. I also got my readability down to a Grade 8.

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Not a bad exercise for fluent writers! I’m going to try it out with my high-schooler selectively to help sharpen his writing skills. I have to say, I don’t think this can be used universally – there are times when a student will need to be more creative and use higher level vocabulary and sentence structure to show what s/he knows. But for journalistic style writing for blogs and other public consumption, it’s a good standard to use.

Here are some other writing apps you can check out: