Whenever I hear someone discuss how Hemingway influenced modern literature, I cringe a little. Why? Well, first off, it means I need to read more Hemingway. I enjoyed The Old Man and the Sea, but I’ve never found time to read his other works amongst the billion other books on my list. Second: most of my feedback-givers compare me negatively to the famous writer. “You need to write a good, clean sentence…” “I can’t follow your train of logic…” I may be in the wrong here, but these statements don’t make me wanna be right.
Maybe I can get some outside help on this. Many writers recommend hemingwayapp.com, a text analyzer that checks your work for excessive adverbs, unneeded passive voice, alternative phrases, or just for what’s hard to read. It’s amazing that a website can do this kind of critical analysis now. Let’s take the opening paragraph from On Writing With Depression: Streak-Breaking and see if this hypothetical Hemingway would hate it.
Hey, not so bad. Those hard-to-read sentences though… I’m not sure how to break them down. Let me try anyways.
I did less butchering than I expected. Just a little carving. I suppose I dislike simple sentences because they don’t allow for the precision I want in writing. All I had to do to change the first “problematic” sentence was definitively state that my last depressive episode occurred in December.
All right, let’s go to the big leagues… my philosophy homework.
Now we’re talking! See, this is the benefit of the Hemingway app: it’s for when you need to get information out and you don’t care how inelegant you are in doing so. I’m referring to Susan Wolf’s “The Meanings of Lives” in this essay, for the record.
Editing this, I felt like I created a cyborg. I had to leave a lot of nuances unsaid. And that first sentence… ugh. No shit it’s a primary example. What about it? I suppose this type of writing allows me to leave details and interpretation to the reader. This is the writer that talked about the iceberg. Still, the little additions to clarity do show. I think everyone who writes about philosophy should run his or her essays through this app.
Oh, and just for fun…
It’s nice to know that, even when attempting to write poorly, I’ve gotten better at avoiding passive voice. All those abusive 7th grade English assignments paid off!