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The Ernest Hemingway Guide To Enterprise Architecture

        posted by , December 23, 2011

Okay, I admit it — Ernest Hemingway wasn't an Enterprise Architect. Not even close. However, he does have a lot to teach EAs about something we all have to do well: writing.

Ernest Hemingway's simple, accessible, gripping style of writing is perfect for Enterprise Architects.

Ernest Hemingway's Style Guide

My aim is to put down on paper what I see and what I feel in the best and simplest way.
~ Ernest Hemingway

What do the authors Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Theodore Dreiser and Sinclair Lewis have in common? They all worked for the Kansas City Star. The Kansas City Star had a remarkable style guide that all four authors credited with influencing their style.

The Star's style guide has never been published. The best glimpse into its contents comes from Hemingway himself. Hemingway gave the following advice on writing (admitting that much of it was directly from The Star's guide):

1. Use short sentences

2. Use short first paragraphs

3. Use vigorous English

4. Be positive, not negative

5. Never use old slang

6. Eliminate every superfluous word

The Hemingway Test

Hemingway's style is particularly relevant in today's information intensive world (in which people skim-read). A challenge: try to skim-read this excerpt from The Old Man and the Sea:

He no longer dreamed of storms, nor of women, nor of great occurrences, nor of great fish, nor fights, nor contests of strength, nor of his wife. He only dreamed of places now and of the lions on the beach.
~ Ernest Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea

You can't skim-read Hemingway because there are no superfluous words.

Next time you write an email, presentation or document try the same test. Hemingway's advice will make your written communication more compelling.

disclosure: I excluded some of Hemingway's more colourful advice such as: Write drunk; edit sober.

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