Think you’re not in a position to learn how to write like Hemingway?
Many business people faced with the task of writing for marketing purposes are quick to say:
“Hey, I’m no Hemingway!”
But really, who better than Hemingway to emulate?
Rather than embracing the flowery prose of the literati, he chose to eschew obfuscation at every turn and write simply and clearly.
Hemingway’s writing style
“Succinct” is one of the most accurate words to describe Hemingway’s writing style.
Merriam-Webster defines succinct as:
“Marked by compact precise expression without wasted words.”
You’ll soon see why anyone who wants to write like Hemingway will need to give up long-winded explanations, tangents, and vague language.
Ernest Hemingway’s top 5 tips for writing well
Now it’s time to jump into some Hemingway writing style examples. Let’s see what Ernest can teach us.
These tips work for effective written content, as well as anything you might be writing for audio or video.
1. Use short sentences
Hemingway knew how to get to the point. He was famous for a terse minimalist style of writing that dispensed with adjectives. In short, Hemingway wrote with simple genius.
Perhaps his finest demonstration of short sentence prowess was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only 6 words:
“For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
2. Use short first paragraphs
3. Use vigorous English
Here’s David Garfinkel’s take on how to write like Hemingway:
“It’s muscular, forceful. Vigorous English comes from passion, focus and intention. It’s the difference between putting in a good effort and TRYING to move a boulder … and actually sweating, grunting, straining your muscles to the point of exhaustion … and MOVING the freaking thing!”
4. Be positive, not negative
Since Hemingway wasn’t the cheeriest guy in the world, what does he mean by be positive?
Basically, you should say what something is rather than what it isn’t.
The latter is what Michel Fortin calls using up words:
Stating what something isn’t can be counterproductive since it is still directing the mind, albeit in the opposite way. If I told you that dental work is painless, for example, you’ll still focus on the word “pain” in “painless.”
Instead of saying “inexpensive,” say “economical.”
Instead of saying “this procedure is painless,” say “there’s little discomfort” or “it’s relatively comfortable.”
And instead of saying “this software is error-free” or “foolproof,” say “this software is consistent” or “stable.”
5. Never have only 4 rules
Actually, Hemingway did only have 4 rules for writing, and they were those he was given as a cub reporter at The Kansas City Star in 1917.
So, in order to have 5 for this post on how to write like Hemingway, I had to dig a little deeper to get the most important of his writing tips:
“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” Hemingway confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”