Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers

Ernest Hemingwayby C.K. MacLeod

Updated September 28, 2016

Proofreading tools are an easy way to help you see and fix potential problem areas in your writing. Recently, I discovered the Hemingway Editor created by Adam and Ben Long. It’s a standalone program that costs $20 US, and you can download it to a PC or a Mac computer. You can also try the free online version. It’s most helpful if your aim is to make your writing clear.

How it Works

The Hemingway Editor highlights common problems that can get in the way of clear writing:

  • Complex words or phrases
  • Extra-long sentences
  • Long sentences
  • Too many adverbs
  • Too many instances of passive voice

It colour codes each potential error type, so you can address them one at a time. You can see an explanation of each error type here.

The app won’t tell you

  • how to fix long sentences (shorten them),
  • what to do with adverbs (delete most of them), or
  • how to handle too many instances of passive voice (rewrite the sentence in the active voice—sometimes), but...

...it will suggest simple words for complex ones.

The Hemingway Editor (and other revision tools like it), will give you something to correct in your first draft, just minutes after you’ve written it. This makes it a terrific tool for on-demand writing with tight deadlines.


Quick Steps

To use the Hemingway Editor, copy your text from your word processor and paste it into the text editor. Click on the Edit view to see areas that may need your attention.

Alternatively, you can write right in the app, in the Write view.


You can make corrections in the Hemingway Editor, and copy and paste your corrected text back into your word processor. Or, you can go back to your original text in your word processor and make changes there.

The newest version of Hemingway (2.0) will now allow you to  add heading and paragraph styles, and if you decide to save the file as a Word doc, the heading and paragraph styles will show up in Word. You can also export your file in markdown.

Note: I use the PC version of the Hemingway Editor, and I’ve found that it works well for articles, newsletters, and blog posts. The design team is working on some improvements, which means it may soon handle longer texts, such as book chapters.

Keep in mind, the Hemingway Editor is a simple text editor with proofreading features. Hyperlinks, bulleted lists, and images will not transfer as-is. You will lose some of the formatting.

The Hemingway Editor is an excellent tool, especially for the price. If you don’t want to use a separate program to revise your writing, and you already use Microsoft Word for editing and proofreading, try some of the revision macros on this blog. They’re free, and so is the 20-Minute macro course that will teach you how to use them.

Image by Thor

12 thoughts on “Hemingway Editor: A Proofreading Tool for Writers”

      1. The Hemingway app is great and the chrome Orwell App is even better because it's embedded in the browser. This makes editing WordPress articles much easier.

        I have been using Grammarly, and will compare the two, over the course of a couple weeks.

        1. I'd love to hear what you think about Grammarly and the Orwell app, Dmitri. I recently removed the Orwell app from my browser because I found that it wanted to edit my wriing when I wasn't quite ready to edit (I work better if I can keep drafting and editing as separate processes). Perhaps I should have a look again.

  1. This app can also be used online for free (a good way to try before you buy). The price for the downloadable desktop version has gone up to $9.99 (US), though.

    1. Iggy,
      An online try-before-you-buy feature. Fabulous! Adam and Ben Long have been busy. I've changed the price in the post. Thanks for the update!

  2. The Hemingway Editor is certainly one of the best writing tools in the market. You want your writing to be more prolific and accurate, it's one of the best platforms available to help you in that.

    Years of extensive personal use indicate that Hemingway Editor is effective in conditioning the brain when it comes to problematic adverbs and phrases. Writing becomes easier and automatic.

    What a gift to writers!

    1. Carl,

      I'm a developmental editor, so I've had the privilege of working with lots of writers. I do recommend that writers try Hemingway, to see what they can learn about their writing. I found that it's a wonderful teaching tool.

      Hemingway hasn't been around all that long, but writing feedback has. So whether you use a writing tool, and/or work with a editor, feedback can most definitely lead to writing growth!

  3. My only problem is how it demands I write somewhere below Grade 10. I tried to use it for my writing class but I was reprimanded because I was supposed to write in college level. Many of my words were dumb down.

    It's actually a good app when I'm writing for my story.

    1. I see where you're coming from. Keep in mind that good writing is clear writing. And if you can find a simpler way to say something, that's better for the reader. So, who's your reader?

      When writing for an academic environment, the key is to know your reader. Is it a prof? Students in your discipline? Then go ahead and use the terminology of your discipline because your readers will understand that. (In fact, your prof may be assessing your ability to use the vocabulary of your discipline). Depending on your audience, it doesn't always make sense to use the vocabulary that Hemingway suggests.

      As with any writing tool, it's important to use your judgement. For academic writing, Hemingway shines at helping you break up long sentences and reduce the use of unnecessary words and passive voice, so your writing is clear and easy to understand. Any prof should appreciate that.

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