Ernest Hemingway’s writing style is one of the most recognizable in American history. He was a master storyteller, as well as an award-winning journalist and author. His legacy lives on today with his iconic style for all aspiring writers to learn from.

Over the years, I have done my best to study his approach bringing his techniques to my own writing whenever I can. In this post, I break down my five favorite lessons from Ernest Hemingway that will help you become a better writer.

Ernest Hemingway writing style lesson #1: Use short sentences

Hemingway’s short, concise sentences are part of the reason he is such a celebrated writer today. Shortening your sentence length can help with pacing and voice clarity by cutting out words that don’t add to the meaning.

It will also make readers want to keep reading because long sentences full of unnecessary text do not bog them down.

Hemingway believed that writing should be as direct and to the point as possible. He wanted his prose to have a strong sense of voice, immediacy, and drama–and he achieved this by using short sentences.

When you write in this fashion, your work becomes more clear and concise, creating a rhythm with your words.

Ernest Hemingway writing style lesson #2: Use active voice verbs

Hemingway was a big proponent of using active voice verbs so that your readers won’t get bored. The active voice is more engaging than the passive voice. It creates a nice flow to your words that is easier to understand.

Active voice is when a subject (person) acts upon an object; for example:

“I ate my lunch.”

This sentence is in the active voice because a subject (person) acts upon an object.

Passive voice, on the other hand, could be: “My lunch was eaten by me.”

The passive voice makes readers feel as though someone else acted on them and not themselves. Hemingway encourages writers to use active voice verbs so that their writing can be more engaging.

Ernest Hemingway writing style lesson #3: Use strong nouns and verbs

A cornerstone of Ernest Hemingway’s writing style was the use of strong nouns and verbs to make your writing powerful, leading to a more lyrical sentence.

Ernest Hemingway said, “I am convinced that it is the nouns and verbs, not the adjectives and adverbs, which make sentences live.”

Hemingway believed that strong nouns and verbs were essential for writing well because adjectives and adverbs add descriptive language that doesn’t necessarily make a sentence any better or worse in quality.

For example, take the sentence: “I am frightened.”

Using the adjective ‘frightened’ describes the person’s state, but it doesn’t paint a mental picture of what that fear is like for that person.

Now let’s look at how we can make this sentence stronger by using nouns and verbs instead:

“My stomach tightened as fear bubbled inside me.”

Now our sentence is strengthened because there is an active verb–tightening–which makes it more engaging than simply saying, I’m afraid.

The main takeaway is that strong nouns and verbs allow writers to create higher-quality prose.

Ernest Hemingway writing style lesson #4: Use metaphors

Hemingway believed that metaphors are the most economical way of conveying meaning. A metaphor is a figure of speech where an object or idea is used to represent something else.

For example, in Hemingway’s novel “A Farewell to Arms,” he said that World War I was like watching your house burn down and not being able to do anything.

He told the reader what it felt like with this comparison–“watching your own home going up in smoke.” He creates emotion because they can now understand how frustrating it would be if they couldn’t stop their own property from burning.

Using metaphors will also make your writing richer and more profound than if you were just using words all the time without any figurative language.

Ernest Hemingway writing style lesson #5: Create a note-taking system

Hemingway was a prime example that taking notes is one of the best ways to improve your writing. It helps writers tap into their creativity and find inspiration in everyday life.

He was known for having a notebook with him constantly. In “A Moveable Feast”, he wrote, “I belong to this notebook and this pencil.”

Creating a note-taking system can help you train your mind to be more creative, so when you sit down to write, your mind is primed to have an idea.

One of my favorite quotes from "A Moveable Feast," a prime example of Ernest Hemingway's writing style
One of my favorite quotes from “A Moveable Feast,” a prime example of Ernest Hemingway’s writing style

Ernest Hemingway is a great study for any writer

Ernest Hemingway’s writing style was simple yet effective with his use of short sentences and nouns to create lyrical sentences that are easy to read.

He believed in writing what you know, and he practiced this by obsessively observing his life while traveling extensively abroad.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a blogger or a marketer trying to improve your copywriting, if you want to add a bit of Hemingway to your writing style, give these tips a try!