I've been introduced to the Hemingway App this week and it is fantastic. (Thank you Twitter for broadening my horizons.) It has also made me acutely aware of how many adverbs I use to describe a character's tone of voice or action. (Or how aware I am of my adverb usage.)
It is easy to get started. A writer goes to the web address www.hemingwayapp.com and pastes their prose in the big white box. Since I'm working on a novel I've only pasted up to three pages of manuscript at a time. I can't tell you the maximum amount it will hold. But if you really want to parse your writing I recommend a few pages at a time. I can tell you that I never received a red box, had a few yellow, green, and purple boxes, and blue boxes galore.
So what do these boxes mean? The Hemingway App anaylzes your prose. Within seconds it tells you via color boxes what your syntax and grammar look like. The dreaded red boxes mean that you have written a very hard sentence to read. I would imagine that much of my stream of consciousness writing would be red. I am happy to report that my rewrite has not received any red boxes thus far.
The yellow boxes mean that your sentence is hard to read. I have had a few of these show up in my analyzed prose so far. Most if not all of my yellow boxes were sentences with the dreaded comma splice! Oh well, that's easy to fix.
The purple boxes advise you to use simpler vocabulary or alternate phrasing. I often ignore the purple boxes. I feel as though my prose is simple and bold enough that the occasional purple word or phrase can be peppered in once or twice a page.
The green boxes show when you have used passive voice. I've noticed that the passive voice only shows up in my characters' dialogue. Since this is a part of their dialogue and I don't want them to sound like a stiff, I leave my green boxes as well.
So as a recap, I haven't had red boxes, I've changed my yellow boxes, and I've left the majority of my green and purple boxes alone. (Though I've appreciated Hemingway App's suggestions.)
Let's discuss the BLUE BOXES. I never thought that the color blue would be the bane of my writing, but the Hemingway App has made it so. This has been the biggest correction I have had to make in my writing. On average I would use 14 adverbs every three pages. Hemingway's suggestion? Aim for 1 or fewer. 1 OR FEWER!!! AAAAAAAAAAGGGHHHH!!!!
It wasn't that dramatic. However, I have noticed that I am branching out and using more of my vocabulary range to avoid unneccessary adverbs.
Thank you computer algorithms.
I don't believe the Hemingway App could replace a valuable beta reader or editor. But I bet your beta reader or editor would appreciate your writing more if it was ran through the algorithms even just once. Perhaps just to catch a superfluous amount of adverbs. And to paint superfluous in a pretty purple box.