I recently read about a great tool that helps you to simplify your writing. The Hemingway App highlights:
- sentences that are difficult to read – yellow sentences are hard to read, while red are “egregious”;
- use of the passive voice; and
- phrases that have simpler alternatives (e.g., with respect to).
It also provides a grade level-based readability rating of your prose.
I tried out Hemingway by entering a legal summary that I had written for a non-legal audience. A sea of yellow and red! And a readability rating of “Post-Graduate”. Gasp!
After adding bullets and making some fairly minor revisions, I was able to resolve most of the issues. The new readability rating – Grade 8 – seemed pretty reasonable for a legal summary.
Hat tip to the Civil Resolution Tribunal (@CivResTribunal) for bringing this tool to my attention. They are aiming for a Grade 6 reading level – the average level in Canada – even for their tribunal decisions. This is a significant step toward improving accessibility of the law.
Check out the free online version of the Hemingway App.
Lesha Van Der Bij (@LVanDerBij) is CEO & Founder of Optimize Legal – keeping law firms and businesses up-to-date on changes to the law.