Improve writing skills

If you know a young person who has a paper to write, be sure to forward this article. If your life involves crafting written content to inspire, inform, or persuade, read on. What I have for you are two technology tools to improve writing skills for people of all ages.

Hemingway App

Ernest Hemingway gave us such treasures as The Sun Also Rises, A Farewell to Arms, and The Old Man and the Sea. He is famous for short and powerful sentences. This style was something he learned as a cub reporter for The Kansas City Star.

Hemingway App is a free website that helps you write in the same powerful style as the legend. The process is simple. Compose your text as normal. Then, copy and paste it into Hemingway App.

Check your ego

Check your ego at the door. Hemingway App flags sentences as “hard to read” and others as “very hard to read.” The site flags passive voice quicker than your English teacher.

Don’t try to impress Hemingway App with complex words. It suggests simpler alternatives. It also points out adverbs and encourages the writer to minimize them.

The sidebar counts letters, characters, words, sentences, and paragraphs. It expresses “readability” by school grade level.

The site requires no login. It does not save your work. The best idea is to compose in the normal word-processing software first. Then, copy/paste into Hemingway App.

Improve writing skills

Here is how Hemingway App looks when you visit.

The first attempt

The first step when visiting the site is to highlight and delete the sample. Then, paste your own text. Get ready for a surprise. If you think your English teacher’s red pen was bad, this is worse. But you get to make it better.

Look at the highlighted items and start re-wording. The colors begin to disappear as you make the edits that result in crisp, clear writing.

Over time, you gain a sense of what clear copy and powerful prose look like. You see fewer “red marks” when you paste into Hemingway App.

Still, the site flags me for sentences it thinks are too hard. When I satisfy the site, I have to admit the writing is better. It’s easier to understand and more enjoyable for me to read. And if it’s more enjoyable for me, it just may be more enjoyable for others to read as well. I never hit “publish” until I run my copy through Hemingway App. This post is an example.

“I never hit ‘publish’ until I run my copy through Hemingway App. “

Voice Instead

Am I the only person who can’t proofread his own stuff? When I proofread, my eyes see what my brain meant to write instead of what it did write.

I have tried reading my copy aloud. That exercise helps some. Usually, my brain merely tells my mouth to say what I meant, not what I wrote.

But, if someone else reads my copy to me, my ears catch the errors. Something doesn’t “sound right,” even if the words are pronounced at a rapid clip. It’s then I scrutinize the text and correct the error.

The tool I use is a free Chrome extension called “Voice Instead.” It’s a voice-to-text tool. After the one-click install, you will see its icon in the Chrome toolbar. Click on it and choose the voice and desired rate of speech. Change them at any time. My favorite is “IBM Watson” with the “Allison” voice. The quality is surprisingly human.

Improve writing skills

Voice Instead translates text to speech

How I use it

Because it’s a Chrome extension, Voice Instead works on any text in Chrome. So, it’s not going to help with a Word document, but will help with something in Google Drive or a blog post. For the material composed in Word, I copy and paste the text into Hemingway App.

First, I work through the items Hemingway App flagged. Then, I highlight a couple of paragraphs of text and run Voice Instead. Highlight some text, right-click, and you’ll find “Voice Instead” on the menu. Sit back and listen. The combination of Hemingway App and Voice Instead makes writing easier for me.

Writing is important

I went to school during a time when the only people who read what you wrote were you, your mom, and your English teacher. I entered the workforce during a time when the outlets were books, magazines, and newspapers. Only “writers” published.

Today, anybody can start a blog and do it for free. Instantly, anybody with something worth saying can write for anyone who thinks it’s worth hearing. That’s a huge shift, and a huge responsibility. It’s also a huge opportunity. Today, we’re all writers.

Technology has changed our reach. If your aim is to write something good enough for the whole world to read, doesn’t it make sense to let technology help you craft the message?