Few writers in the history of literature have been as tacit, succinct, and precise as Ernest Hemingway. Such was his hold on words and what they conveyed that a contemporary editing tool (Hemingway Editor) is named after him.
He was one of the greatest American authors of the 20th century. Hemingway’s writing style was lauded by many literary geniuses like F. Scott Fitzgerald for its gut-punching delivery.
While he’s revered by modern fiction writers, many of his writing techniques are also relevant for non-fiction commercial writing. So, even business owners, marketers, and content craftsmen can learn a thing or two from the writing lessons he imparted. In this blog, we will exhume some remarkable lessons from his literary legacy.
What Is Special About Hemingway’s Writing?
The distinguishing factor in Hemingway’s writing was simplicity. He wrote what he meant. And he gave the same advice to fellow writers.
Unlike common misconceptions about good writing, his prose was often simple, devoid of flowery words and vague adjectives. When Hemingway was asked to write a story in six words, he wrote “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”
His prowess was seen in the way he conveyed what he wanted to through words he chose to omit. It’s a skill that, in today’s attention-scarce world, is invaluable for writers of any kind. Any piece of content can be made more striking, remarkable, impactful, and bold by emulating his style.
How to Write Like Ernest Hemingway: 5 Crucial Tips
First, let’s get our expectations right. It’s likely that you won’t turn into the next Hemingway overnight. It’s also likely that not all his advice would help you in your writing. But these five tips are the pillars of Hemingway’s writing. And they can surely help you if you want to write like Hemingway.
1. One good copy for 99 bad ones
Have you heard the phrase “Kill your darlings?” It fits perfectly well with Hemingway’s writing style. For every page of a masterpiece, he wrote 99 pages of garbage. According to him, every great writer has an impeccable sense of justice for writing. They know what they owe their ideas and narratives, and they are not afraid to let go of their finest pieces to get to the best one.
So, whenever you sit down to write, keep a waste bin nearby. Write whatever you want, everything that comes to you. And then edit it like Hemingway.
2. Use words wisely
Think of words as money or precious gold. Spend them wisely. Great writers write what they know and leave something to the imagination. To write like Hemingway, give your readers some space to partake in the experience of weaving a story with you. It’s a great way to keep them engaged. This can be done by using shorter sentences and fewer words. Hemingway also emphasized the usage of monosyllables as they are simpler to understand. Here’s a great example that incorporates this technique.
3. Write for a six-year-old
Many writing geniuses emphasize the importance of adjectives and descriptives. Hemingway did away with it all. He kept his sentences simple and his words easily understandable. His nouns were just nouns. That’s a quality of good ad copy too. Great writing is not a show of excellent vocabulary. Don’t aim to impress; rather, aim to convey the real meaning through your writing. Understand the difference between:
4. Write what is, omit what isn’t
Hemingway’s writing was more focused on describing positive emotions. He often tried to describe what is instead of what isn’t. Instead of saying “Something is not costly,” it would be more impactful to write “Something is economical/cost-effective/pocket-friendly.” The former brings the reader’s attention to negative associations with the word. The latter reduces that conflict and is easier on the mind of the reader.
5. Scrap the adverbs
Your content has to be as precise and succinct as possible. Adverbs often take away from the brevity of the text and make it redundant. Hemingway and many other famous authors shunned the usage of adverbs. So it’s best to avoid them wherever you can if you want to write like Hemingway. However, it’s not a hard-and-fast rule, and many good writers (such as Sinclair Lewis) used adverbs in their prose often.
That’s a wrap on the lessons from Hemingway’s writing style. To write like Hemingway, focus on keeping your writing simple and succinct. Focus on the experience of the reader as they go through your content. You can learn more about Hemingway’s writing by reading his works. It’s best to know the master up close to emulate his work.
Hemingway’s writing is easy but impactful, bold but contained, and profound but simple. His writing has an air of subtlety that teases the readers and leaves a lot to the imagination.
He credits much of his writing prowess to reading and inspiration from fellow writers. He also trained as a foreign correspondent, which gave his writing the much-known finesse.
His writing style is natural, clear, simple, understandable, and direct.
His writing was influenced by fellow authors and artists from a literary group called the Lost Generation. He also found inspiration from known geniuses of his time, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ezra Pound.
Start by understanding his writing style well, including its specialties and limitations. Then try to imitate the simplicity, directness, and brevity of his style. Later, you can blend it with your own style.