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3 Proven Tips On Writing As Ernest Hemingway Did (That Really Work)

Updated on September 3, 2016

There is nothing to writing. All you do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed

Above-mentioned quote by one of the most famous authors of the 20th century, Ernest Hemingway, clearly states that writing is not easy. And without any doubt, it's absolutely true. Well, I will not go into the detail of writing process here. Rather, I will focus on the writing style. I will be discussing the terse prose of Ernest Hemingway who pioneered the minimalism in English writing. Also, I will be explaining some tips on how to write the manner he did.

Hemingway's writing is famous for the simple sentences and the use of everyday vocabulary. Though, you may find some foreign words here and there, but overall his writing is simple and direct. And you will not have to consult a dictionary. Hemingway refrained from adjectives and relied on nouns and verbs mostly. This made his writing more direct, terse, and powerful.

Before we go into the detail of the main features of his writing, I want to mention here a famous anecdote from his life, which will give you an idea of his impeccable command over the craft.

Once during the lunch with other writers, Hemingway won a bet for writing a short story in just six words. He came up with this:

For sale: babies shoes, never worn

You can understand by this example that how much precise and powerful he was in his writing. He had been famous for unadorned and straightforward prose throughout his writing career. He attracted both admirers and critics for his terse prose. Now, he is considered to be one of the most followed American authors of the 20th century.

Image Courtesy: chrishiltonwriter.wordpress.com
Image Courtesy: chrishiltonwriter.wordpress.com

Read the timeless classic

The Old man and the Sea

This novella fetched him the Nobel Prize in literature in 1954. The Old man and the Sea is a slender classic that is inspiring and gripping in its drama. This is a story about triumph and defeat. Let me mention a quote from this intellectual thriller:

'A man can be destroyed but not defeated.'

The Old man and the Sea is a true signature of his craft. His other novels include A Farewell to Arms, The Torrent of Spring, To Have and Have not, For Whom the Bells Tolls, The Garden of Eden, True at First Light, Across the River and Into the Trees. He also penned many short stories: Men without Women, Winner Take Nothing, The Snow of Kilimanjaro

Image Courtesy: www.allposters.com
Image Courtesy: www.allposters.com
Image Courtesy: thewritepractice.com
Image Courtesy: thewritepractice.com

How you can write as Hemingway did

First advice on how to write like as Hemingway did is to read his works as much as you can. This will help you understand how to organize sentences and paragraphs.

Sentence length:

Hemingway wrote short and simplified sentences. He once said that his objective was to write what he felt in simplest and truest manner. If you want to write as he did, you should use short, simple, and declarative sentences. Break long and complex sentences into simpler and short sentences. This will help you achieve brevity.

Sentence speed:

The most visible stylistic of Hemingway's writing is fast sentence speed. Sentence speed means how fast readers read sentences aloud or silently. His short and declarative sentences and minimal or no use of punctuation make his writings fast to read. Hemingway waged a war against comma. He found an alternative of comma. He used 'and' to replace comma. This helped him achieve fast sentence speed. So, limit the use of punctuation, you will be writing fast lane.

If you notice pages of a Hemingway's novel, you will notice there is lots of white space on the pages. This he did to make his writing reader friendly. The pages are filled with dialogues, leaving plenty of white space. If you want to write as he did, you should leave sufficient white space on pages to make them more aesthetically pleasing.

Reread to cut out unnecessary words:

The simple and terse prose of Hemingway you see is a result of vigorous writing process. He himself said once the first draft is a shit. He edited his work heavily to attain brevity. So, reread your work to attain clarity.

These are some basic and most visible traits of his writing. As one cannot emulate other writer, many writers tried to imitate him, but none has been successful so far. You cannot learn to write as he did. But you can certainly have features of his writing in your craft, which are simplicity, brevity, and clarity.

I will put an end to this post with a famous quote of his on writing:

'We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a master.'

So keep on improving.


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Image courtesy: www.wallpaperbeautiful.com/
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Image courtesy: http://inktank.fi/

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    • profile image

      Wild Bill 15 months ago

      Although he is not my favorite author, I have always said that his ability to pull emotions from his readers is his greatest attribute. If I were to build the perfect writer, I would take:

      -Borges imagination

      -The storytelling of Dumas

      -Hemingway's ability to evoke emotions

      -The character development of Tolstoy

      Great Hub! I look forward to reading more.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 16 months ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Tebo for reading the hub and sharing your thought!

    • tebo profile image

      tebo 16 months ago from New Zealand

      I am going to go to the library and find "The Old Man and the Sea." I do not know whether I have read it or not but will know when I read it now. Look forward to it actually after reading your hub. Thanks.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 16 months ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Tessa Schlesinger! Yes, he avoided using adjectives.

    • TessSchlesinger profile image

      Tessa Schlesinger 16 months ago from South Africa

      You forgot that he never used adjectives and he converted adjectives and nouns so that they could be used as verbs. I can't think of an example right now, but he used language in a very original way.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 16 months ago from New Delhi

      Thanks MizBejabbers for sharing the insight. I would like to recommend you The Old Man And The Sea.

    • MizBejabbers profile image

      MizBejabbers 16 months ago

      We each have our own style, but we can learn from other people. Hemingway's subject matter hasn't interested me, but I think eventually I will have to get around to reading at least one of his works. The family of his second wife, Pauline Pfeiffer lived in Piggott, Arkansas. He and Pauline lived in their carriage house for a couple of years, and he wrote part of A Farewell to Arms while they lived there. He is also famous because at least one of his cats, a polydactyl, left quite a legacy of polydactys running around in the city. The cat's descendants still live there. Just a tidbit, FYI. Great hub, Sandeep.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 17 months ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Anne!

    • Anne Harrison profile image

      Anne Harrison 17 months ago from Australia

      A great hub - I have only discovering Hemingway in recent years. Aside from his prose, I feel he was also adept at summing up the tragedy of life as seen through the 'average' person - though not always in average situations. Thanks for sharing.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 21 months ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Kenneth Avery for such a nice comment!

    • kenneth avery profile image

      Kenneth Avery 21 months ago from Hamilton, Alabama

      Sandeep,

      Papa Bear, as he was known in later years, WAS (a) master of the simple adventure. And in each simplistic step he took via typewriter, "we" were merely passengers mostly owing for our tickets.

      You did a great job on Hemingway. I loved it. Stay with it and never quit.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Yes, Mary Hyatt. He would have been very popular if he had been alive.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Colin Garrow, I request you to pick 'The Old Man and the Sea' and try to finish it. You will really love it.

    • FatBoyThin profile image

      Colin Garrow 2 years ago from Kinneff, Scotland

      I've always struggled with Hemingway's writing and have never managed to finish any of his novels (though I have read some of his stories). Interesting Hub, though it's unlikely the 'baby shoes' anecdote was one of his - it had been around for quite a while before Hemingway nabbed it.

    • mary615 profile image

      Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

      I enjoy reading articles and books that are direct, and without a lot of fancy words that make me run to Mr. Google for definition. I think his style of writing would be very popular today in a world of fast readers .

      I think I have read all of Hemingway's books.

    • profile image

      Xinh 2 years ago

      Im a huge fan already, man. Youve done a braillint job making sure that people understand where youre coming from. And let me tell you, I get it. Great stuff and I cant wait to read more of your blogs. What youve got to say is important and needs to be read.

    • alancaster149 profile image

      Alan R Lancaster 2 years ago from Forest Gate, London E7, U K (ex-pat Yorkshire)

      Medusa13 was unlucky in having an English Literature teacher who was more interested in producing 'exam passers' than enthusing him for writing. When I was at college we had Dickens thrust at us. To be honest I'd sooner have had Hemingway.

      Earlier, when I was at Secondary Modern school in the late 50's-early 60's I had an English teacher - Mr Boar - who taught English because he wanted us to enjoy it. He read the 'BEOWULF' saga to us in successive lessons. Hemingway I progressed to through being enthused, and enjoyed reading his books. My own writing style is easy, not simplistic, and I use plain language similar to Hemingway in that respect.

      It's not wise to copy another writer, otherwise your style comes over as 'plagiaristic'. Write your best prose, write your OWN prose, and keep it straightforward, easy to follow. End of...

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      I respect your views frantisek8. But I believe he was quite capable of expressing himself. I prefer the bare truth. Many times, unnecessary embellishments cover the truth. And I believe the best way to say I love you is 'I love you'. Some people may find it minimal. But I like it. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your views.

    • frantisek78 profile image

      frantisek78 2 years ago

      Hemingway has been overrated. Oftentimes the minimalistic approach leaves much to be desired. Was he minimalistic because he could express his ideas in very few words, or because he was incapable of expressing himself more deeply? Hard to say.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, for reading and sharing a thought.

    • Indianstudent profile image

      Dinesh 2 years ago from Delhi

      Very interesting and as well as informative article Sandeep. Keep it up..!!

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Darcie French, for reading it.

    • darciefrench profile image

      Darcie French 2 years ago from BC Canada

      Cool! My writing style was once compared to Hemmingway's.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Rebecca Mealey, for reading and sharing your thoughts. Much appreciated.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Chelsea Rowe for sharing your thoughts. Many times, the joy of reading a fabulous book is killed by a not so good English teacher. You can reread this novel. Believe me, it's worth reading it again.

    • rebeccamealey profile image

      Rebecca Mealey 2 years ago from Northeastern Georgia, USA

      I will be brief. Excellent advice for writers.

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      Chelsea Rowe 2 years ago from Henrietta, New York

      When I was in high school, my teacher completely ruined The Old Man and the Sea for me. It was completely shoved down our throats and over analyzed for too long a period of time. I kind of shudder every time I hear that title. I love literature and this is unfortunate. Maybe I should reread it again without the negative influence of a not so good English teacher!

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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Amit for reading this hub between the lines. Highly appreciated.

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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks, Kamalika De for reading and sharing thoughts. Much appreciated.

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      Amit Kumar 2 years ago

      Dear Sandeep Rathore,

      I have not read any of Hemingway's work till yet but have heard a lot about his work and his unique style of writing in the simplest manner. Your article has awaken the long dead quench again. I am surely looking forward to read his work now and yes - your inputs about how we can write the way he used to write are quite useful and can come handy for aspiring writers.

    • sandeep15r profile image
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      Sandeep Rathore 2 years ago from New Delhi

      Thanks Sambeet for reading and sharing thoughts.

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      Kamalika De 2 years ago

      Thanks Sandeep for such a great post. As an admirer and true lover of Ernest Hemingway and his short and direct style that cuts to the core of things, I couldn't agree more with what you have elaborated throughout this article. It can indeed be an inspiring and useful piece of writing for all upcoming and dedicated writers.

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      Sambeet 2 years ago

      Good one and nicely written Mr. Rathore. I abolutely agree with the point "Reread to cut out unnecessary words". Minimalistic approach, maximum result. Keep going man. :)