An editor’s secret: improving readability with the Hemingway App

Our in-house translation team found a nifty tool to make improving readability just that bit easier.

Have you ever found yourself reading a sentence over and over again and still struggled to decipher its meaning? Reached the end of a paragraph but have no idea what you’ve just read? Or maybe you have just sent your friend or colleague a long message and they reply with only a series of question marks?
Let’s face it. We’ve all been there at one time or another, and it can be frustrating, especially if you are under time pressure. Good writing needs to convey its message, simply and effectively, without compromising on style.
Easier said than done, right? Right. Except this year, our in-house translation team found a nifty tool to make improving readability just that bit easier. This tool has become key for our products such as copy-editing and transcreation.

The Hemingway App is a clever piece of free online software that aims to improve readability. Simply paste your text into the app and it automatically highlights certain words and phrases which it deems challenging to read or understand. These are then divided into error type and are colour coded for your convenience. Finally, your text is given a reading grade level, based on the Flesch-Kincaid readability test. The higher the grade, the harder your text is to understand and vice versa. Personally, my favourite feature of the Hemingway App is the suggestions it makes to potential problem areas of text. Telling me my text is basically incomprehensible to the layman is all well and good, but I want to see some alternatives in that case. These are displayed by simply hovering over the affected word or phrase.

My colleague brought the tool to my attention at the beginning of the year, but I must admit I only became a convert after I began drafting copy for this website. The clear visual display made me much more inclined to contemplate my word choice and more willing to consider rewriting that 45-word sentence. While not ideal for translating or proofreading, the Hemingway App is certainly suited to copywriting and transcreating, be it an online product description or an email to clients or colleagues.

If you’ve made it this far I must have done something right. And I confess that I had a little help from the Hemingway App. So what grade would this blog post receive I hear you cry? A solid 8. Well within your capabilities as language enthusiasts.

By Lottie N.