August 29, 2016

Highly Recommended: Every First Draft is Sh*t, Using the Hemingway App to Your Advantage

By: Ryan Kelly

Ernest Hemingway once famously claimed, “the first draft of anything is sh*t.” And if you run your own first drafts through the Hemingway App, you’re bound to agree with him.

According to its website, the Hemingway App is designed to “make your writing bold and clear.” But what does that mean?

It means applying all of Hemingway’s finest principles to your medical school essays.

  • Value clarity and simplicity above all other qualities
  • Never use a complex word when a straightforward one will suffice
  • Always use active voice
  • Remove all adverbs and utilize stronger verbs instead

These rules often seem counterintuitive to pre-meds, whose biggest problem in writing is excessive wordiness. Since pre-meds have so much to say, they feel determined to squeeze in every last descriptor, detail, and qualifier they can. This leads to essays that are unnecessarily verbose.

All of these rules will help you do more showing and less telling, which is the core of Hemingway’s Iceberg Theory. Most good writing only gives the readers as much as is needed  and then lets them infer what’s implicit or below the surface.

What’s great is that the Hemingway App will do all of the work for you. After a few seconds, it will give your essay draft a “readability score” based on the following factors:

The app highlights long, complex sentences and common errors; if you see a yellow sentence, shorten or split it. If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.

You can utilize a shorter word in place of a purple one. Mouse over it for hints.

Adverbs are helpfully shown in blue. Get rid of them and pick verbs with force instead.

Phrases in green have been marked to show passive voice.

Even Hemingway himself needed an editor (Maxwell Perkins). So take his advice and don’t trust your first draft. Don’t let yourself be seduced by the sound of your own words. Use the Hemingway App and start cutting out the fluff:

As always, it’s highly recommended.    

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