There are so many writing apps out there that focus on singular features. The problem is you can’t write in so many different apps to get all of those features. I feel odd asking for the signature feature of another app to be added to Scrivener, but it does seem very nice, although not something I’d want to use separately from my existing Scrivener workflow.
The feature is from Hemingway Editor (hemingwayapp.com) which color-codes your text to highlight problems like overly complex sentences, use of passive voice, use of adverbs that could be eliminated, etc.
This kind of self-editing feature is nice to have. It’s hard to edit your own work objectively, but this gives you specific words and sentences to target. Obviously the algorithms are subjective, but perhaps those could even be tweaked by the user in preferences (something which I don’t think Hemingway allows).
Editing is hard, and I think anything that helps someone to edit their own work would be a welcome feature.
I like the Hemingway Editor, but I wonder how much it has “under the hood” to get it to work. I don’t see a way to download it to a computer, which means that it could be a very large program in reality. There might be a lot of coding involved, and coding like that might not be something easily added to Scrivener. After all, it’s doing more than finding adverbs and passive voice; it also tells you which sentences are hard to read and which words and phrases have simpler alternatives. There’s more to the program than a simple dictionary search.
On the other hand, it’s free to use, so maybe the L&L staff wouldn’t be against contacting the creators and seeing how hard it would be to port something like that into Scrivener. Or vice versa?
“I don’t think it’s Scrivener’s job to help users write well - that’s something the writer should bring to Scrivener.”
I disagree - Scrivener is a writer’s tool, just like the Hemingway App. I would absolutely love it if there were some kind of feature like this, or better yet integration of the Hemingway App into Scrivener. I’m constantly copying and pasting from Scrivener into the app to check for things I’ve missed. It helps new and experienced writers. It’s a great way to clean up drafts. I vote for this feature!
On their site, they highlight the following sentence as an example of one which is too long and complicated for readers to understand.
If you see a red highlight, your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic — try editing this sentence to remove the red.
Leaving aside the dash and the odd use of ‘splitting’, this is a simple if clause, which doesn’t seem complicated at all, really. But let’s remove the if clause and split the sentence after the dash, so
A red highlight means your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic.
No. Still highlighted as too difficult. Perhaps it thinks the vocabulary is too hard?
A red highlight means your sentence is so complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its logic.
That’s better – it thinks that this sentence only merits a yellow warning for being lengthy and complex. Let’s try again.
A red highlight means your sentence is too complicated. Your readers will get lost trying to follow its logic. Try editing this sentence to remove the red.
Finally it’s happy. But I suspect most writers would think this is dreadfully stilted, particularly if the same level of reduction were to be applied across a whole text. How often do most writers have to limit vocabulary and syntax to such a degree?
There are at least two reasons why I question whether this would be a great idea.
One is the imperfect state of grammar and style checkers. There’s no doubt that they’re better than they were, and one day they’ll represent a terrific aid to writers (although by then, of course, computers really will be writing stories ), but they aren’t there yet. As brookter’s example above suggests, currently they raise too many false negatives (which is fine if you’ve got the knowledge and skill to reject the errors - but why then do you need the software?). I always have mine turned off for that reason.
The second reason is that if the software to accomplish this were built into Scrivener, it would inevitably have to be bought in - and we users would pay for it, even if we didn’t want it. (I’m not saying that Keith and his colleagues couldn’t successfully develop such a capability on their own, but I’m sure that they have many other ideas on which they’d prefer to spend their time.) Interfacing with third-party software would be a different matter - although Hemingway is by no means the only example out there.
Don’t you think it’s odd that the single example (their showcase) of an overly dense and complex sentence is nothing of the sort, and their guided reduction of it is cloth-eared?
I can see the point of something that checks syntax for basic errors — something like that has been in Word for years. Their claims to enhance good style look overblown, though, or perhaps dependent upon a far too restricted definition of good style, which is harmful rather than helpful, because it ignores the rhythm and sound of text.
I agree with Mark and Hugh that implementing something like this would be a huge distraction for the developers and take them away from other more important areas.
There are other benefits to these tools, such as catching the unintentional use of passive voice, or not realizing how much it has been employed. I do agree with the concerns about bloating Scrivener, or driving up the cost. Integration with other tools, rather than incorporation of them, can solve those problems. I wonder how many of these tools make an API interface available for that sort of thing. I’d give up any of these wishes in lieu of making the Windows version feature-compatible with the Mac version!
I already own a license for ProWritingAid as a plugin to WinWord 2106. It’s pretty good, even tho it has a few issues and many of its “suggestions” or “warnings” must be taken guardedly. Presently I must copy-n-paste into Word, run the plugin, make tweaks, then copy back into Scrivener. If I could do the same entirely within Scrivener, I wouldn’t complain.