1. CraniumInsanium
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    CraniumInsanium Member

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    Hemingway app

    Discussion in 'Software' started by CraniumInsanium, Nov 26, 2014.

    Has anyone seen this? Thoughts?

    http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
     
  2. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Sounds to me like it was created by a person who has a very particular, prescriptive take on writing and created an app to sell that particular take as authoritative rule instead of... you know... his/her opinion.
     
  3. CraniumInsanium
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    CraniumInsanium Member

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    I gave it a shot, that is the website. You can paste text in there and it gives you a breakdown of hard to read sentences and what not. Not sure if I'd throw down the I think 10 dollars they want for it, but for me it holds definite appeal seeing as how I have trouble editing my own work,
     
  4. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    An app like this is never a good idea. Not everyone writes like Hemingway. More importantly, not everyone wants to write like Hemingway. Worry instead about developing your own style and voice. Long sentences, adverbs, passive voice, etc. aren't inherently bad. I think this app is trying to appeal to newer writers who don't have the knowledge and/or confidence to explore the limits of their writing. Luckily for WF members, we have some great people here who give awesome advice, so I don't think an app like this is necessary. :agreed:
     
  5. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    I entered some samples of my writing and... well, shit. Dat sentence length.
     
  6. Bjørnar Munkerud
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    Bjørnar Munkerud Contributing Member

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    I haven't been this angry (at whoever made this app) since that time a couple of weeks ago when I heard an "expert" on the radio saying drug illegalisation is as bad as discrimination against gays. Alas, the plight of the rational bisexual author. Never a moment's rest. ;)
     
  7. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    If you have trouble editing, join a crit group or post some work in the workshop. Read through some threads in the workshop for a sense of how to approach critique (because editing is really self-critique). If you admire Hemingway so much that you wish to emulate his style, compare your writing to his and see where you fall short (though my own view is that you are far better served, in the long run, developing your own style).

    As for using a computer app - how often does WORD screw up on grammar, spelling and automatic changes?
     
  8. The O'Rahilly
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    The O'Rahilly New Member

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    I write a newspaper column and have in the past fed it into StyleWriter, a similar piece of software, for analysis. Occasionally it will highlight something that I missed that needs changing, but generally I find myself justifying using long sentences like this one and ignoring its advice.

    This is what it looks like:
    StyleWriter.png
     
  9. qp83
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    qp83 Member

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    I've copied a few of my short stories into the website version a couple of times. And though I'm a horrible writer, I always get GREEN and good grades of readability. So for me, its totally useless. ...maybe my grammar isn't too bad, and its just my sentences that are weird... hum... or maybe I'm the next Hemingway. o_O

    Anyways, I find the word count useful :D
     
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2014
  10. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, this was an interesting piece of software, especially the errors in it. Sure, it found quite a few things to remark on (mostly passive voice and semi-long sentences), but hey, that's the way I write. :agreed:
     
  11. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Looks like the most pointless app ever. Why on earth would I let a computer programme dictate how I write? Build some confidence in yourself and sharpen your intuition in what makes good writing, and read a lot of good novels, particularly in your own genre or by authors you admire.

    But I dunno. Something very fundamental about this app really, really bugs me. It would serve to make you feel bad about your writing based on entirely arbitary standards with no appreciation for style, flow/pacing, aesthetics, or creativity, nor mood and appropriateness for character voice and the situation. In short, it'll only serve to make you destroy your own writing because it does not encourage self-confidence and nor does it encourage actually being critical towards your own writing.

    Besides, you're writing for living human beings, not a computer. Who on earth cares what an app thinks of your writing? If a reader emotionally responds to your writing (according to how you'd intended it), then I don't care how you wrote it, you probably wrote it well!

    I think there's probably a far more serious problem with your writing and your perception of your skill if you'd trust an app over your own instincts. I always say - believe you're a good writer, no matter whether you actually are just yet, but believe you have the potential to be great, while always being critical and accepting criticism in order to get there. But take away a writer's instinct and... I dunno - what's left?
     
  12. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    I tried out a section of Not Pink for fun. 12 paragraphs, 340 words. 36 sentences. It highlighted 4 issues - 1 sentence was very hard to read ( I agree ). 2 adverbs ( I'm fine with them ). and 1 phrase - all of? could've been simpler - probably won't change. My writing level was Grade 3.

    I'd only try this out for fun but if you're a newbie to writing ( and don't know much about nuances and stylistic 'rule' breaking ) I think an amp like this could be dangerous and creatively stifling.
     
  13. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    No one said it needs to be used that way. It can reveal things you never noticed in your writing, so that you can decide whether to change them. I sure as hell would like to be aware of when I use the passive voice or when I use a long synonym of a short word, whether or not I decide to take the app's suggestion.

    No single person or piece of code can notice every single area for potential improvement in a piece of writing. More perspectives are always better, even if some perspectives are very limited in scope.

    Use it in the same way you would use a spelling and grammar checker, which points out errors you may have made so that you can decide whether they are really errors.
     
  14. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I pretty much gave up all hope when the app complained about "The book was red" being passive voice. ;)
     
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  15. Shrubs
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    Shrubs Member

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    I don't understand the grade level meter. Is a lower grade level better? I understand you wouldn't want whatever you're writing to be too complex but too simple isn't great either.
     
  16. Komposten
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    Komposten Insanitary pile of rotten fruit Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Lower grade = better writing, according to the program. Though it's a bit strange since when I tried to write a completely random sentence the grade got lower as I made the sentence longer (for a while, then it got higher again)... :p
     
  17. Shrubs
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    Shrubs Member

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    That's weird. I don't like overly simplistic writing though... I guess this differs from reader to reader.
     
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  18. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    If a sentence doesn't flow, doesn't fit, doesn't sound good, isn't appropriate - whether it's pacing, word choice, structure, length, whatever the issue might be, as a writier, and I hope a good one, you sure as hell are going to notice.

    And if you don't notice after editing it about 50 times, then truth is, it's probably not a problem.

    I don't care if I use passive voice, adverbs, or if my sentences are long. If it makes sense, if it feels and sounds good, if it's perfectly easy to understand, and if it's appropriate to the context and situation, then I'm keeping it. This might be a case of how just some things annoy one person more than another person - we all have different levels of tolerance for different things. This app isn't one of those things I have any tolerance for. The very idea ticks me off.

    If something was a recurring issue in my writing, I hope some critique would have alerted me to my bad habits and I'll be keeping an eye out for it anyway, which means I'm definitely gonna see it when I come to edit. To me, it just feels like an app trying to tear your writing apart on technicalities - and I hate that.

    Spell check and grammar are different - they're far less fluid than the art of writing and there's less wriggle room in those places. That's not checking whether your house is a beautiful house, but rather just checking if it's built right so the walls are gonna hold and the ceiling isn't gonna collapse. If you're wrong, then you're well, wrong, usually. And if you're not wrong, it's pretty obvious too.

    But for the art of writing - it's not obvious when it's "wrong", except the way the app works is that it makes you feel like it's wrong. It's just pointing out arbitary things repeatedly and all that can do, in the long run, is erode your self-confidence away. And if you're not actually gonna follow the app's advice, why use it at all?

    As a more experienced author, I see no need for it. As an inexperienced author, I see something like this doing a great deal of damage.

    Each to their own, but I'm running a mile from this kinda thing. If I'm not sure about my writing, I'd sooner ask a trusted friend whose writing I admire and whose judgement I trust.
     
  19. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    Grade level refers, I think, to the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level. It is purely a measure of words per sentence and syllables per word. It is not intended to be an exact representation of the grade level at which a student is expected to read it easily. It is based on (extremely) rough estimates of the progress students tend to make in their reading habits as they progress through school.

    Personally, I tend to prefer reading short sentences over longer sentences, although it can be annoying if every. sentence. is. like. this. and sometimes, an idea cannot be expressed in a shorter sentence. I tend to find readability scores to be a much less useful metric of writing than the other metrics offered by the Hemingway app.
    You put a lot of faith in your own attention to detail. Me, not so much. In my experience with software, I learned firsthand why the maxim "there is no such thing as bug-free software" is true. Code review (the equivalent of beta reading and proofreading) cannot discover every bug. No matter how many people read a piece of code, they will not discover every flaw that could be discovered simply by running it through an automated test.

    Granted, writing software is different from creative writing, and I realize that, but the principle is the same: people are good at convincing themselves that a hypothesis is true (like "my writing is as readable as it can reasonably be") but not so good at finding details to disprove such a hypothesis. It never hurts to consult an unbiased machine, even if the machine is limited in its accuracy. If it produces even one true flag, then it has served its purpose.

    If you are already going to read through your writing 50 times, then why not set one of those times aside to be different from the other times? Why is it better to read it that 50th time without the highlights provided by the app than with those highlights?

    Everything you said about the damage it can do to a writer can be avoided just by using it correctly. Let it reveal things about your writing; there is no need for it to prescribe things in your writing. A flag does not mean "change this"; it simply means "be aware of this".
     
    Last edited: Dec 12, 2014
  20. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    But by what criteria are things being flagged? Truth is, if something's recurring, you will notice, unless you're just not editing properly. And if it's only used once or twice - honestly? I don't see anything wrong with it. I'm not one of those people who say "NEVER DO THIS!!!" when it comes to writing.

    And if real human beings - eg. actual readers - don't spot anything, then why should I worry or care if I've used some word or device said app thinks is wrong? I care about human reactions, not computer reactions. The computer won't be paying for my book. Humans will (hopefully lol).

    I understand your angle of not letting it prescribe your writing but rather just for it to make you aware of certain things. But like I said, this is just one of those times when it bugs me to such an extent that for me, there's just no reason for me to ever want such a thing or recommend such a thing to anyone. An artist without her gut instinct and without trust in her instincts is no longer an artist, and while I get that you're saying you don't have to let an app dictate how you write, to me that's what the app's trying to do. To me, that's probably why someone even bothered to develop it, because of some misguided notion that a computer programme could root out all evils of bad writing, when writing's so much more fluid than that. (I was just on another thread where a user was disappointed because he seems to think eventually we'll have computer programmes that can write for us)

    It's just something I feel really, really strongly about. Don't ask me why cus I honestly don't know. I just do. We're nothing without our instincts - we'd be barely human, let alone dream to be writers.

    But yeah, I do get your point. I just still don't agree lol :p
     
  21. BayView
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    BayView Contributing Member Contributor

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    I agree with this approach. If I've read something 50 times, there's no WAY I'm paying attention to detail anymore... my brain just doesn't work like that. I don't know how useful an app like this might be, but it's definitely more likely to be useful to me than reading my book a 51st time would be!
     
  22. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I don't think I've read my own book 50 times (seriously don't think I'd have that much patience) - but anyway, if I ever do do that, I think I'd just call it a day and push the book out lol.
     
  23. daemon
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    daemon Contributing Member Contributor

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    @Mckk very well. If you would rather do what feels right than what is slightly likelier to help you accomplish your goal, then who am I to stop you? ;)
     
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  24. plothog
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    plothog Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    This app looks terrible as a teaching tool.

    As people have pointed out, it could be used to pick up potential issues and then let people decide for themselves if they're really issues. It's probably got its uses.

    The big problem is that the site sometimes talks in absolutes.

    For example it says,
    "if you see a yellow highlight, shorten the sentence or split it."
    At the very least they could change that to,
    "if you see a yellow highlight, consider shortening the sentence or splitting it."

    The site really needs clear disclaimers to say the app is pointing potential flaws with the writing, rather than definite errors. It needs to say that none of its "error" categories are actually hard and fast rules that you should never break.

    As Komposten pointed out, it gives some false positives when it comes to passive voice. It doesn't even warn that this might be the case.
     
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2014
  25. HelloImRex
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    HelloImRex Contributing Member

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    This app is funny. Take this thing I entered:

    Expected but abruptly an old incandescent bulb appeared on the down-sloping path. As they proceeded it turned into a cascade of bulbs with lighting dependent on sensory recognition of the speeding transport. What an odd entry system.

    It turned the word abruptly blue because its an adverb and all adverbs are bad. It also turned the second sentence yellow.

    Grade 10:
    Expected but abruptly an old incandescent bulb appeared on the down-sloping path. As they proceeded it turned into a cascade of bulbs with lighting dependent on sensory recognition of the speeding transport. What an odd entry system.

    Grade 8:
    Expected but abruptly an old incandescent bulb appeared on the down-sloping path. As they proceeded g g g g g gg gg g g g it turned into a cascade of bulbs with lighting dependent on sensory recognition of the speeding transport. What an odd entry system.

    Grade 10:
    Expected but abruptly an old incandescent bulb appeared on the down-sloping path. As they proceeded it turned into a cascade of bulbs dependent on sensory recognition of the speeding transport. What an odd entry system.

    Note it is still grade 10, but I removed the "with lighting" from the second sentence that caused the sentence to turn yellow. The sentence is no longer yellow in this version.

    Grade 7:
    Expected but abruptly an old incandescent bulb appeared on the down-sloping path. As they proceeded g g g g g gggg g g g gg ggggg g g gggg g g it turned into a cascade of bulbs dependent on sensory recognition of the speeding transport. What an odd entry system.

    I actually find the underlining of yellow and red sentences useful. It isn't that strict with it, and most of the time something is yellow it does sound off while most of the time if it is not yellow it doesn't sound off. The underlining of all adverbs is silly and the grades are more silly for being completely arbitrary.
     

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