Writing

The Hemingway Editor: What is it and Can it Improve Your Writing?

(originally published as a guest post on JerryJenkins.com)

If you want to be taken seriously as a writer, it’s imperative you become what Jerry calls a ferocious self-editor.

There’s no way around it.

Little irritates an agent or a publisher’s acquisitions editor more than having their time wasted by a writer who doesn’t edit and revise his own work before submitting it for consideration.

Given the vast array of training and resources for doing just that, now available on the internet, there’s no excuse.

You don’t have to be an English grammar expert to write well — but you do have to know how to self-edit. It takes work and perseverance, and most writers face a learning curve.

But in the end it’s worth it, and it can revolutionize your writing and your chance at success.

While learning to recognize and remedy your mistakes, an app like The Hemingway Editor can help save you time and frustration. And it can also make you a better self-editor, and thus, a better writer.

What is the Hemingway Editor?

Ernest Hemingway was a pioneer in a simple, direct writing style, exactly what the Hemingway App seeks to deliver.

It’s a web and desktop self-editing tool created by Adam and Ben Long that highlights the overuse of adverbs and passive voice, and flags wordy sentences — common errors writers make.

It does not, however, highlight most grammatical or spelling errors, and is not intended to function as a comprehensive editor.

The web version of the app is free. The desktop version carries a one-time $19.99 fee and is available for both Mac (OSX 10.9+) and PC (Windows 7+) systems.

How the Hemingway Editor Works

As editing apps go, this one ranks high in the easy-to-use category. Both versions allow you to work in write or edit mode and easily switch between the two.

Write Mode

The writing mode works like any word processor, but it won’t distract you by highlighting misspelled words as you go. To use the online version, simply highlight the sample text, delete it, and paste in or create your own.

But beware: There’s no automatic way to save or back up your work — so unless you copy and paste it into Word or something similar, if you lose your connection, you may lose your work.

You’re better off writing in a separate program and copying and pasting it into the Hemingway App before using the app.

Once you’re ready to edit, click on “Edit” mode in the upper right hand corner.

hemingway editor

Edit Mode

Edit mode displays formatting options at the top and allows you to view the Hemingway App’s suggested edits (highlighted), which are also summarized in the column on the right.

The varied colors allow you to easily identify each type of error.

In the case of words or short phrases, simply hover above the highlighted area for suggestions to appear.

Once you make the suggested edits, the highlights will disappear.

The Hemingway Editor also gives your writing a readability score, and displays just below it other specifics like word count and reading time.

Blue: highlights weak words, typically adverbs.

hemingway app editor mode

E.B. White, the author of Charlotte’s Web and one of the authors of The Elements of Style, suggests you “Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives andadverbs. The adjective hasn’t been built that can pull a weak or inaccurate noun out of a tight place.”

For additional help, I recommend Jerry’s post 249 Strong Verbs That’ll Instantly Supercharge Your Writing.

Green: highlights the use of passive voice.

hemingway editor remove passive voice

Instead, eliminating as many state-of-being verbs as you can will tighten and clarify your writing.

For more on this common issue, read Jerry’s post, How to Fix Passive Voice.

Purple: highlights complicated words or phrases and sometimes suggests a replacement, aiming for clear, concise writing.

hemingway editor omit complex words

Yellow: highlights complex sentences and paragraphs and suggests shortening them.

Red: highlights complex, very hard-to-read sentences and paragraphs.

hemingway editor readability score

Free vs. Paid

Two primary differences between the free and paid versions:

  1.  The free version does not allow you to export or save your work.
  2. The paid version not only allows you to save and export your documents, but you are also given the option of publishing directly to WordPress or Medium.

Both versions offer the full Hemingway Editor analysis.

Bottom line, for short pieces and quick help, the free version is sufficient. If you’re writing anything longer, or planning to publish online, the paid version may be worth your investment.

Hemingway Editor Pros and Cons

Pros

  • It’s easy to use.
  • You can test it without obligation.
  • The offline editor is worth the price of the app.
  • The free online version is sufficient for editing short pieces, though you will have to cut and paste when you’re finished.
  • It’s great for helping you learn to be more concise.
  • The separate modes allow you to edit while you write, if you wish.

Cons

  • The free version doesn’t allow you to save your work.
  • It’s not a comprehensive grammar or spelling checker.

How Does the Hemingway Editor Stack Up Against the Competition?

If you’re looking for a free app to help you self-edit, The Hemingway Editor can be a great addition to your writing toolbox.

For a more comprehensive editing program, ProWritingAid or Grammarly may be a better fit.

Hemingway App vs. ProWritingAid

ProWritingAid helps you edit every aspect of your writing, so it’s far more thorough in helping review and analyze your writing.

ProWritingAid also offers a less comprehensive free version that allows you to try the program, as well as an annual membership option with or without the plagiarism check.

hemmingway app

Like the Hemingway App, you are able to download the ProWritingAid app for ease of use. It’s compatible with Microsoft Word, Scrivener, or any other writing program.

For more on ProWritingAid, click here to read Jerry’s full review.

Hemingway Editor vs. Grammarly

Grammarly is closer to the Hemingway Editor in terms of purpose, however, you must download the app to use it.

Grammarly beats the competition by spotting spelling errors and highlighting grammar and punctuation issues. It also spots passive voice, redundancies, and complex sentences.

The free version may be all you need, but the more comprehensive version will cost:

  • $30 per month for the monthly subscription
  • $60 every three months for the quarterly subscription
  • $144 for the annual subscription (billed as one payment)
hemingway app editor vs grammarly

For more on Grammarly, click here for Jerry’s full review.

The Hemingway Editor: Can it Really Improve Your Writing?

If you’re a beginning writer or just looking for a free or reasonably-priced app that helps you tighten your writing, the Hemingway Editor could be a useful tool.

The app is helpful in recognizing complex, wordy sentences and passive voice, but because it misses so many other issues, it ranks below ProWritingAid and Grammarly for me.

Nothing replaces actually doing the writing and learning to effectively self-edit. Tools like the Hemingway Editor can help you, but they won’t write for you.

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