I recently came across Hemingway, an app that helps people follow some of the ‘rules’ of writing. Curious, I threw some of my old schoolwork at it, and it complained of my writing being ‘too hard to read’. I was not really surprised- this was what I got all the time during WRIT 140- but I disagreed with the results. I found the tone of the advice particularly annoying; so much so that I decided to write about it.
- 9 of 54 sentences are hard to read.
- Let’s look at one of the offending sentences: ‘His mother had been in the vending machine business, and her experience and advice was the foundation of his entrepreneurial career’. Is this difficult for people?
- 6 of 54 sentences are very hard to read.
- Okay, guilty as charged on this one. I’m quite fond of long sentences; I think I picked it up from reading Douglas Adams.
- 13 adverbs. Aim for 0 or fewer.
- Why? There’s nothing wrong with adverbs. This is one of those silly rules that wannabe pedants find online, and then recite verbatim without ever applying context. Other such ‘rules’ are: - Never split infinitives - Always use ‘XYZ and I’ instead of ‘Me and XYZ’ - Don’t start with ‘however’, ‘and’, or ‘or’.
At the end of the day, writing is about expressing yourself clearly to your audience- and that really only requires following syntax rules. But don’t ever dangle participles- people have been killed for less. Here are some articles that seem to agree with me.