Exercise wherein I edit the first paragraph of Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises to see how many words I can trim, and therefore claim the title for sparse prose

The Sun Also Rises entered the public domain in 2022. Published in 1926, it was Ernest Hemmingway’s first novel. Hemmingway was praised for his sparse prose, but let’s see what Grammarly thinks of the first paragraph.

Not too bad Ernest. He received an overall score of 90. Grammarly only made ten suggestions. A couple of commas. A few re-worded sentences. Overall, there were six alerts for correctness. The passage was “Clear” and “Engaging,” and the delivery was “Just right.” The style was assessed as “All good.”

Hemmingway’s original words totaled 219, 1002 characters (without counting spaces). I thought it would be a fun exercise to revise and modernize to see if I could trim it down.

After a few passes, I cut it down to a svelte 161 words, 715 characters. Over a 25% reduction.

Bob Cohn was middleweight boxing champion of Princeton. I am not impressed by that title, but it meant a lot to Bob. He cared nothing for boxing, but he learned it well to counteract the inferiority and shyness he felt as a Jew. There was an inner comfort in knowing he could knock down anybody who was snooty to him, although, being shy and kind, he never fought except in the gym. He was Spider Kelly’s star pupil. Spider taught all his young men to box like featherweights, whether they weighed one hundred or two hundred pounds. It fit Bob. He was fast. He was so good that Spider overmatched him and got his nose flattened. This increased Bob’s distaste for boxing, but it gave him satisfaction, and it improved his nose. In his last year at Princeton, he read too much and took to wearing spectacles. I never met any of his class who remembered him or his boxing title.

But what did Grammarly think of the revision? After cutting 58 words, I boosted the score to 97 and increased the readability score by eight points. I also improved the engagement to “Very engaging.” 

Not too bad. Join me next time when I attempt to turn War and Peace into a pamphlet.

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