I keep seeing recommendations for the Hemingway app or editor or whatever it’s called. A site that allows you to paste in your work and then it highlights sentences which are “hard to read” or “very hard to read”, adverbs, passive voice, and words that are “complex”.
So I’ve got to ask: is this sentence hard to read?
I went into the darkened smoking-room where the rays of morning light were beginning to creep through the shutters.
And is this sentence very hard to read?
He wrote out for me a ticket to Newton-Stewart, a name which had suddenly come back to my memory, and he conducted me from the first-class compartment where I had ensconced myself to a third-class smoker, occupied by a sailor and a stout woman with a child.
Then my last question: why is Hemingway still in fashion?
Because that’s what this kind of writing advice is really all about: fashion. It used to be okay to use words like “however” and “overall” and no one thought they were “complex” whatever that means. It used to be okay to have longer sentences with clauses in them. The works that people have held up as “good” writing change with the age.
I stuck one of my stories into it just for the lols and got a grade 3. (If you put Hemingway in there it’s a 0. The two example sentences are from The Thirty-Nine Steps which got a 5 for the first two chapters.) I can see this app being useful if like me you have a problem with over using a word like “just” and here it is highlighted so you can delete half of them.
Because I had to, I stuck a Lovecraft story in there. “Pickman’s Model.” Grade 10. Since I’ve read about a dozen stories from Lovecraft’s essay, I couldn’t very well stop there. Some of the others:
Negotium Perambulans: 9
The Shadows on the Wall: 4
The Death of Halpin Frayser: 10
The Green Wildebeest: 8
Mrs. Lunt: 8
Oh, that last one. Worse than Lovecraft! Mr. Cobb was indeed talented. Obviously I haven’t written anything on the stories listed here (they’re coming) but I’ll give you a small spoiler: there’s some heavy competition but “Fishhead” has yet to be unseated as my favorite. I had no problem reading the 81 sentences in “Fishhead” which the Hemingway editor flagged as “hard” or “very hard” to read.
I like these old stories. I like this style of story. But as they say, there’s no accounting for taste.