How to Write Like Hemingway

Ernest Hemingway was born in Illinois in 1899, but later moved to Paris, where he became part of the “Lost Generation,” a category of American authors who wrote literary works about the dark side of society after World War 1.

Hemingway’s works are notable for lonely and alienated characters, sometimes haunted by memories of the war or of love gone wrong, and his sparse use of flowery language and short and simple sentences.

Hemingway wrote six novels, sixty short stories, over two hundred articles, and a few poems.

While no author today will have gone through the experiences of war and trauma that Hemingway and others faced, we can still learn from his writing and apply those lessons to our works.

Here is how you can write like Hemingway.

Write in a Clear, Linear Fashion

One of Hemingway’s most notable and evident features is his linear and easy-to-follow story-telling. Hemingway writes as if he were telling a story to someone, not writing a novel or short story that readers will decipher and try to analyze for deeper meaning.

By writing the way we speak, we can bring our readers into the writing, and let them in on the story in a way that is more natural and organic.

Avoid Adjectives and Adverbs

Hemingway did not use too many adjectives or adverbs in his writings. He wrote largely in nouns and verbs to get the point across so that readers could see what he saw without any distractions or fluff.

Hemingway wanted the words on the page to speak for themselves, rather than embellishing them with fluff.

Use Active Verbs Whenever Possible

Active verbs bring a sentence to life, show us what is happening rather than describing it after the fact. It’s easier and more interesting to say, “I dropped the cup,” instead of “the cup slipped free of my hands.”

Readers will appreciate this effort and be drawn into your work without getting distracted by long-winded sentences that don’t convey any meaning.

Take Your Time

Hemingway wrote big, bulky masterpieces because he took his time and let the work sit for a while so that he could edit it down to its strongest points.

Don’t be afraid to write the first draft and come back to it later. No writer can edit perfectly as they write, and your first draft may need some serious editing to make it work.

Keep Your Sentences Short and to the Point

Another habit of Hemingway’s was his short sentences. A long sentence can be confusing to follow when reading, especially if there are no breaks or commas to separate the individual parts of the sentence. 

Eliminate Unnecessary Words and Phrases

A great way to calm your style is to take out any words or phrases that are not absolutely necessary. Every word on the page should advance the story. If it doesn’t, then you should consider taking it out.

Avoid Flowery Language

Along the same lines as adverbs and adjectives, Hemingway would favor simple language instead of flowery phrases. This is a good rule of thumb when writing: The easier it is to understand, the better.

Conclusion

By studying Hemingway’s style of writing and applying some of these ideas, you will find that your work is more direct, concise, and easy to read.

Hemingway’s style may not be for everyone, but his tips are solid advice for any writer.