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Hemingway Vs. Proust: Why Shorter Sentences (Usually) Beat Longer Sentences Online

by | Feb 9, 2021

Pity the writers. We suffer from a ubiquitous dissonance of unbridled arrogance and debilitating self-doubt, often compounded by some form of substance dependence and ceaseless procrastination. We also occasionally suffer from untreatable bouts of over-writing (see previous sentence).

That kind of copy might impress in novels and theses. But it simply won’t cut it in the content world. To illustrate, let’s take a look at two distinct writers, Hemingway and Proust, and discover why the latter might find himself out in the cold in the cutthroat copywriting arena of 2021.



Hemingway Vs. Proust


Ernest Hemingway was a no-nonsense, grizzled-looking scribe famed for his staccato sentences and emotional power. Marcel Proust was a French novelist who favoured an immense, complicated writing style discussing highbrow concepts such as the nature of time.

While undoubtedly a genius, Proust’s work is nigh-on impenetrable on first reading. Hemingway hits you where it hurts from the get-go.



Short Sentences Or Longer Sentences?


You can simplify these two writers’ styles down to an essential conflict: are short sentences better than longer sentences? In the literary world, it’s horses for courses. But when it comes to copywriting, Hemingway wins out. Why? He’s high-impact. And that’s the name of the game when it comes to online content.

You want to grab your reader by the throat from word one. You want to engage them with dynamic sentences. You want to encourage them to read on. And you want to entertain them while you’re doing it.


PepperStorm Media - Hemingway

Learn how to write with brevity – if you overcomplicate your sentences, gold-cast Ernest will judge you.


How To Write With High Impact


You can’t discuss the nature of being with five words per sentence. But the odds of you tackling complex, existential themes in your copywriting are slim to none. More likely, the messages you’re aiming to convey will be clear and direct. In other words, you want to write with high impact.

Use short sentences. Use short paragraphs. When Hemingway kicked off his journalistic career at a Kansas City newspaper, this was the first thing he was told. He obviously listened. People absorb information in short, decisive bite-size chunks. Feed them too many long-winded monologues and they’re bound to tune out.



How To Write Effectively


This style of writing is also a better mode for delivering your keywords, especially long-tail ones. SEO is critically important for the success of your brand. Taking a leaf or three out of Hemingway’s book can help you take your optimisation to the next level.

In fact, his style is so applicable to the online world of 2021, they even named a writing app after him. This can help you identify where you’re overwriting and where you might benefit from an edit or two. It’s especially important to use short, direct sentences in such key places as your homepage copy and your mission statement. Here, less is most definitely more!

But it’s also important to strike a balance. That’s what good writing’s all about. When you’re describing something specific, or you want to insert a little humour, longer sentences can work wonders, especially when they arrive in the middle of short bursts of direct copy.

Ultimately, though, ditch the Proust and pick yourself up some Hemingway. He might hate it if he were around today, but there’s no mistake: Ernest is the poster boy of online copy.


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