Earnest is an online writing tool, it's an experiment that aims to help you focus when creating a first-draft. Earnest is about words, not grammar, spelling or style - just words.

“The first draft of anything is shit.”   — Ernest Hemingway

What's this about?

Earnest is a minimalist, browser-based writing tool. It lets you get words written in a peaceful environment with no distractions - it does not spell-check your writing, nor does it offer any way for you to format your work, there is no grammar checking and you cannot insert any type of media or HTML, you cannot even edit the words you've already written.

In case you missed that last bit, let me say it again: you cannot edit text you've already written. The delete key does not work in Earnest, you just write, you do not change what you've written. Earnest is about getting words down for your first draft, you can edit later - this tool is a way to force the distinction between writing and editing.

Earnest automatically saves your writing every 10 seconds, your text is saved locally to your computer. You can work on, and store, multiple pieces of writing at any time. Because your work is saved locally on your computer, Earnest does not require any sign-up or login, there's nothing to get in the way of writing.

Earnest shows you the number of words in your text, useful for people who need to hit a particular word-count, but it only re-calculates the number every minute to deter you from constantly keeping an eye on your progress. The word-count should not be a distraction from your writing.

How it works

There are two pages in Earnest: the writing page and an admin panel. The writing page lets you create a new piece of writing or continue working on an old one. The admin panel shows you a list of your saved works and lets you delete them.

Below is the writing page. Just start typing! There's no need to name your text, Earnest will auto-save your work using the first three words in your document as the name - in the screenshot the writing was saved locally on my computer as steve_says_hello.txt. The word-count is shown top-right and you can get to your admin panel using the top-left link.

Earnest writing page

Below is the admin panel, it is very simple, it just shows you a list of your saved writing and lets you delete or continue working on them.

Earnest admin page


I've always struggled with the concept of editing being separate to writing. My typical workflow used to be to create a new post in WordPress, write it directly in the WP editor and correct spelling and grammar as I went. I would write, delete and re-write paragraphs again and again until I got what I wanted, which kind of worked but I often found that I'd forget some of the things I'd planned to write whilst busy spell-checking and re-wording.

I wrote Earnest to force myself to write a rough-draft and then edit it later - now, with Earnest, my rough drafts are very, very rough indeed! I'm surprised just how many typos I create, I thought my typing skills were pretty good, turns out I was just wasting effort correcting as I went.

Losing the ability to delete and change words feels extreme to begin with but you soon get used to it.