How To Write More Like Hemingway & Less Like Tossaway
Sorry, my headline lied. There's no official writer named Tossaway. But it's my coined term for writers who recklessly toss away words – like throwing spaghetti at the wall and hoping it sticks. Understand?
And while the late great Ernest Hemingway wasn't officially a copywriter, he spent time working as a tabloid journalist early on, giving him an ironclad grasp of writing with clarity and brevity – both masterstrokes of brilliance for all types of copywriting, especially for the current day.
So, if you're writing captions on LinkedIn or Instagram, an easy way to quickly improve the quality of your words is to take note of what Hemingway did NOT do.
Avoiding these three simple things will help keep your writing bolder, sharper, and more succinct. (And ultimately, a whole lot better.)
1. Avoid Adverbs
Adverbs give your reader more information:
- "He carefully held the kitten."
- "She quickly ran from the beach."
- "They cared for each other dearly."
But using too many adverbs starts to weaken your verbs and degrade bold writing.
Instead, replace adverbs with more descriptive, definitive verbs:
- "He cradled the kitten."
- "She sprinted from the beach."
- "They loved each other."
2. Avoid Passive Voice
For example, this sentence is in the passive voice: "The bus was driven by Dave."
You can tell because the subject (Dave) is at the end of the sentence, which shifts the sentence's focus to its object (the bus).
This sentence is in the active voice: "Dave drove the bus."
You can tell because Dave, the subject, is doing the action.
While technically grammatically correct, passive voice makes your writing unnecessarily wordy and harder to read – and can sound too formal, especially for captions.
Using active voice allows you to sound more confident, clear and conversational.
3. Avoid Complex Words
"Complex" words are generally big words, buzz words or bulls**t words – all those words you use to try and sound smart that offer no concrete benefit to your writing.
I don't even want to dignify a list of these words, but here are a few; intangible, eschew, subsequently, utilise, beneficial.
No doubt you can probably think up some simpler replacements for all of those words. So yes – use them instead.
Remember, a big word will never impress your reader as much as a big idea, clearly expressed.
The secret to writing good social media copy, first and foremost, is being understood. Because you'll never impress anyone who misses the point of what you've written.
Hemingway Editor: The Free Tool To Help You Write Like Hemingway
Simply write or copy/paste your words into the Hemingway Editor, and it helps ensure your writing is bold and clear. It's like having your very own copy editor, without having to passively-aggressively acknowledge their feedback.
Hemingway Editor automatically scans your writing for all the elements I've mentioned above – adverbs, passive voice, complex words – highlighting where you can improve and offering specific suggestions.
Another excellent feature is the way it shows when your sentences are too hard to read and displays the overall readability grade score of your writing.
Did I mention it's free? Try it here.
Lastly, this is not a paid endorsement, but I won't lie; I've been using the Hemingway Editor for years as a final cross-check for most things I write. It's always helped keep my writing sharp and punchy, especially when writing short-form content like LinkedIn and Instagram captions.
Now go forth and stop writing like a Tossaway – you've got no more excuses.