One Of Hemingway’s Most Powerful Stories Was Just Six Words

And written as a bet

Grant Piper
3 min readMar 14, 2022
Hemingway writing in 1939 (Public domain)

There is an urban legend that tells a tale of Ernest Hemingway at the height of his powers. The legend goes that Hemingway was drinking and hanging out with a cadre of fellow writers in the 1920s. At the time, he would have been living in Paris likely smoking and collaborating with fellow ex-pats.

Around this smoky table, a bet was made. The writers in attendance bet Hemingway $10 each that he could not write a compelling story in six words or less. Hemingway has always been a master of the less is more approach to writing.

In 1920, $10 was equivalent to $147 today. That means each writer was willing to throw down a C-note against Hemingway’s writing prowess.

The story says that Hemingway immediately grabbed a napkin and scribbled out six words and pushed it into the middle of the table. The other men gathered around craned their necks in curiosity and then disbelief before pushing their money into the center “without a word”.

Hemingway won the bet.

The Story

So what were the six words that stunned his peers and allegedly netted him a decent sum of cash?



Grant Piper

Professional writer. Amateur historian. Husband, father, Christian.