Writing Tips From Ernest Hemingway

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Every writer should be a Hemingway.

Why ?

Because he wrote simply and clearly. 

Ernest Hemingway, one of the greatest writers ever, did not use any magical formula to create powerful prose. Rather he followed four simple rules, which anyone can use to write effectively. 

1. Use short sentences.

Hemingway was known for his minimalist style of writing. He never used flowery adjectives and always got straight to the point. His best was when he was challenged to tell an entire story in only six words:

For sale: baby shoes, never used.

2. Use short first paragraphs.

See the opening of this article.

3. Use vigorous English.

David Garfinkel can talk better on this: 

“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.

Say what something IS rather than what it is NOT

Michel Fortin says: 

“By 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.”

  • Say “economical” instead of “inexpensive”
  • Say “relatively comfortable” instead of “painless”
  • Say “ stable” instead of “foolproof” or “error-free”

These rules were given to Hemingway when he was a cub reporter at the Kansas City Star in 1917, and he followed them religiously all through his literary journey. In the course of that journey, he contributed one more to this list of rules:

“I write one page of masterpiece to ninety-one pages of shit,” He confided to F. Scott Fitzgerald in 1934. “I try to put the shit in the wastebasket.”

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