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Hemingway and Wardour

Published Feb 09, 2022 – By Andrew Strange


I started my writing career 35 years ago on a manual typewriter in a newspaper office in Welwyn Garden City, with smoke from the pipe belonging to the journalist sitting behind me swirling around my carefully chosen words.

I like to think it’s a scene that Ernest Hemingway, one of the 20th century’s most iconic writers, would have recognised. But it’s also a scene that is now long gone as quieter keyboards and bright screens have replaced the loud clatter of typewriters. Technology has made its way into every corner of the office and smoking has rightly disappeared from such communal spaces.

Until recently, technology has had little impact on the process of writing itself. We may have begun using different equipment and inserting the odd keyword here and there, but it is still the writer and not a microchip calling the shots. Recently, however, some clients have asked us to use a digital programme that assesses the writer’s work, even giving it a score and recommending where changes are needed.

For someone whose career is rooted in the written word it goes against the grain. The trouble is that the Hemingway editing programme is pretty good. It’s probably not the tool for helping you to write a creative feature or a novel, but for the descriptive content on a website it can really help. Its sole aim is to make sure the text is easy to understand. It doesn’t put up with the vanity that can lead to big words being used when small ones would be better, or long and complex sentences that simply aren’t necessary.

Hemingway has no tolerance for lazy writers, something of which its 20th century namesake would probably have approved. What’s more, the technology can make more run-of-the-mill writing projects fun. It turns it into a game. Trying to hit the target readability score adds a bit of spice and a challenge for the editor.

The program chastises you for overuse of adverbs and the passive voice and complains when sentences are hard to read or when it believes there is a simpler alternative to a phrase.

Ernest Hemingway wrote descriptively about his personal experiences in the First World War and the Spanish Civil War, with novels like ‘A Farewell to Arms’ and ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’. I’d like to believe that an algorithm will never be able to replicate the passion that great writers put into their work. But algorithms are getting better all the time, so never say never.


If you’d like to have an informal chat about what Wardour can to do help with your marketing and communications, pop us an email at hello@wardour.co.uk – we’d love to speak to you.

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