Confusing commas

Today a colleague sent me a link to the Hemingway app. The idea is that you write something, copy it into the app and it tells you if your work’s well-written or not. So, just for fun, and feeling pretty confident, I put in a blog post I wrote this morning – and the result? Just ‘OK’. Hmph.

So it turns out most of my sentences are too long and confusing. This didn’t particularly come as a surprise to me, because generally most of the thoughts in my head are like that, too. (Seriously, you should see inside my head sometimes. It’s not pretty.) Because my thoughts go off on random tangents, so do my sentences. This leads to me using lots of semi-colons and brackets, as I leap from one idea to another, change my mind and decide I need to clarify my points, only to make them more complicated.

Now, usually if you tell me something I’ve done isn’t great, I’ll be mortified, dwell on it for several days and then completely change the way I do it next time. But when it comes to writing, I don’t actually think there is a right or wrong way. If the purpose of the app is to help you write like Hemingway, then it’s great. But I don’t want to write like Hemingway; I want to write like me.

Ideas notebook

Now that doesn’t mean I don’t want anything I write to be good. In fact before I hit publish on this post, I’ll read it through several times to check for mistakes and make sure every comma is where it’s meant to be. (And if anyone says anything mean about it, I’ll probably be briefly crushed. No pressure or anything.) I don’t remember ever learning about where commas should go; I just base it on what feels right. The other day, I won an argument with a colleague – a different one – about whether a comma was in the right place, despite a complete inability to explain my reasoning. I just knew I was right, and eventually she agreed with me 😉 Everything I know about grammar is from studying Spanish, and although I remember being taught about similes and metaphors, it doesn’t mean I’m about to start littering my writing with them.

One day, as you know, I want to write a book – and with a bit of luck that means I’ll have an editor to tell me my sentences are too long and confusing. And maybe I’ll listen, since, you know, it’s their job and it might make the difference between making some money and failing spectacularly. But until then, I’m just going to keep rambling on, over-using semi-colons and liberally sprinkling commas everywhere. Because that’s just what I do.

By the way, I ran this post through Hemingway and apparently it’s ‘Good’. So that’s an improvement. Although I use way too many adverbs, and seven of my sentences are hard to read (one of them is very hard). And the app also thinks ‘very’ is a word that could be simpler, even though it’s a word it uses itself to describe my sentences.

Confused? Welcome to my world.

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2 thoughts on “Confusing commas

  1. I like your writing style. Okay, I may be slightly biased, but still… I once took a plain English workshop (in Canada – which opens up a whole other discussion!). I can’t remember much about it, except the importance of shorter sentences and not using slang, abbreviations or contractions. They are ‘rules’ I apply in certain contexts but completely ignore in others!

    1. Thank you 🙂 Yes I think in a work context it’s important to consider whose voice you’re using (whilst at the same time trying to keep a balance between corporate and human). But outside work, everyone knows I’m a rambler so no reason why my writing style shouldn’t be the same! 😉

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