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

PerfectIt Pro 3 for Proofreading: New Features

Old shoes new shoes

by C.K. MacLeod

PerfectIt Pro, a popular copyediting and proofreading tool, has been updated to include new and improved features. Many excellent features—such as the style sheet builder—remain, but new features add even more value to this proofreading favourite.

In this post, I describe a few features that I think will be helpful for editors and proofreaders — and authors interested in learning how to at least partially automate some editing tasks.

A New Look

PerfectIt Pro 3 (P3) is designed to work with Microsoft Word — the tool of choice for professional editors and proofreaders. When you install P3, you’ll notice it has its own tab in Microsoft Word:

PerfectIt3 Ribbon

That’s nice because many of P3’s features are no longer buried — they’re laid out in Word’s ribbon for the user to see. P3 is wide and deep, and the new tab goes a long way toward encouraging the exploration of features you might otherwise not notice.

Consistency Tests

P3 has added new “tests” that you can run on a document in order to check for inconsistencies. Below is a screen capture of P3’s tests. The new tests are circled in pink.

PerfectIT3 new tests

Of the new tests available in P3, the following tests can be especially useful to writers, editors, and proofreaders who want to take some of the grunt work out of self-editing and proofreading:

Brackets and Quotations Left Open Test

It’s not uncommon for writers to forget to close quotations or brackets. P3 will find open quotes and brackets and create a list of them so you can systematically close them up. I don’t really need to say how much time that can save, do I?

Italics Test

There are rules about how italics are used. For example, some style guides state that you italicize less common foreign words and phrases. In the Italics test, P3 will identify certain foreign words and phrases and allow you to decide how and when a word will be italicized:

PerfectIt 3 Italics

Serial Comma Test

Do you use the serial comma, or Oxford comma? If you do, an editor will check that you’re using it consistently throughout your book. Tedious? Unbelievably. Time consuming? You bet. Nearly impossible to catch them all manually? I think so. P3 will systematically identify places in your writing where you may need to insert the serial comma.

Note: The serial comma feature in P3 is not activated out of the box. You need to turn it on. Here’s how:

  1. In the PerfectIt 3 tab on the ribbon, click on the Manage Styles icon.
  2. Click on the Edit Style Sheet button to bring up the Style Sheet Editor.
  3. Click on the Settings tab.
  4. In the pull-down menu, select Serial (Oxford Comma). In the PerfectIt should check field, select Serial (Oxford) Comma. Then, in the It should make sure documents use field, select the Use Oxford comma option and click Apply. You can now check your document for missing serial commas.

Greater Customization

P3 has a new feature that allows users to decide what combination of tests they want to run on a document. You may not always want to run all the tests available in P3, so you now have the option of unchecking the boxes next to the tests you don’t want to run.

Tests and options

There’s much more to say about P3’s newest features, and I hope to be writing about them as I continue to investigate this tool. For now, exploring the features described in this post is a great way to acquaint yourself with the newest version of PerfectIt.

For more information about the latest version of PerfectIt, visit Intelligent Editing.

Are you a PerfectIt 3 user? What are your favourite features?

Disclaimer: I have been a paid user of PerfectIt since version 1. Intelligent Editing has kindly supplied me with a review copy of PerfectIt 3. I continue to be a fan.

Image by Teddy Kwok

Proofreading Tool: PerfectIt Pro

by C.K. MacLeod


Professional proofreaders use computer tools to check for proofreading errors in a piece of writing. While proofreading, checking for inconsistencies is important, because inconsistencies can distract readers.

Not sure what inconsistencies to check for? Don’t worry. PerfectIt Pro, a proofreading tool favoured by the pros, walks you through the process, and in some ways, acts like a proofreading checklist. It identifies inconsistencies in your writing so you can fix them. I’ve written about Consistency Checker, the lite version of PerfectIt Pro, so you can see what kinds of things these tools check for.

Note: PerfectIt Pro runs 27 tests on a document. Consistency Checker is a sample of what PerfectIt Pro can do.

PerfectIt tests

The Fix Feature

Unlike Consistency checker, PerfectIt Pro will run as a plug-in in any PC version of Word (sorry, Mac users). And, besides checking for inconsistencies, PerfectIt Pro will give you options for fixing them.



Style Sheets

PerfectIt Pro also has a style sheet option, that can greatly reduce the amount of time it takes to check that you’ve spelled words consistently. For example, if you’re a Canadian (like I am) and you want to be sure that you’ve spelled words as recommended by the Canadian Oxford Dictionary, you can add the Canadian Oxford style sheet to PerfectIt Pro and it will flag any words that need their spellings adjusted. There are style sheets for UK and US spellings, too.

PerfectIt style sheet

Loading Style Sheets

Here’s how to load style sheets into PerfectIt Pro:

  1. Download a style sheet from the Intelligent Editing site.
  2. Open PerfectIt Pro in Word. You’ll find it in the Add-in Tab.
  3. Click on Customized, Advanced, Import.
  4. To run the style sheet, choose the style sheet you want to use in the Settings area.

Build Your Own Style Sheets

You can build your own style sheets, too. In PerfectIt Pro, click on Customized, Advanced, New and begin adding words to the style sheet template. Include in your style sheet the spellings you want to use, and PerfectIt Pro will comb your book file and alert you to the ones that don’t match. This is particularly useful if you have a 300-page book filled with names and places with unusual or hard-to- remember spellings.

Many proofreaders will say that because of the time it saves, PerfectIt Pro often pays for itself the first time you use it. For writers, using PerfectIt can reduce the cost of professional proofreading, if you check your manuscript before sending it to a proofreader.
You can try PerfectIt Pro for 30 days and decide for yourself!

Image by Bruce Berrien

Showing vs. Telling Macro

by @CKMacLeod


Most writers are familiar with the adage, show, don't tell. But sometimes it's tricky to determine when those telling instances have crept into your writing.

Editor Janice Hardy of Fiction University explains how telling happens and offers advice for how to turn telling into showing. She and Valerie Comer of To Write a Story suggest lists of words you should avoid to prevent instances of telling.

I've inserted some of Valerie Comer's and Janice Hardy's telling words into the macro script below so you can identify them in your own writing. I've also included some words of my own.

Loch Ness telling sample
TellingWords in action; writing sample by Carla Douglas, used with permission

Copy the TellingWords* macro, below, from Sub to End Sub and paste it into Word's Visual Basic Application (VBA). When you run the macro, it will hunt down and highlight those telling words so you can tell them, I mean, show them who's boss.

Sub TellingWords()
' Highlights telling words
' Written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, adapted by Jami Gold and tweaked by C.K. MacLeod; word list by Valerie Comer and Janice Hardy
Dim range As range
Dim i As Long
Dim TargetList
TargetList = Array("was", "were", "when", "as", "the sound of", "could see", "saw", "notice", "noticed", "noticing", "consider", "considered", "considering", "smell", "smelled", "heard", "felt", "tasted", "knew", "realize", "realized", "realizing", "think", "thought", "thinking", "believe", "believed", "believing", "wonder", "wondered", "wondering", "recognize", "recognized", "recognizing", "hope", "hoped", "hoping", "supposed", "pray", "prayed", "praying", "angrily")

For i = 0 To UBound(TargetList)

Set range = ActiveDocument.range
With range.Find
.Text = TargetList(i)
.Format = True
.MatchCase = False
.MatchWholeWord = True
.MatchWildcards = False
.MatchSoundsLike = False
.MatchAllWordForms = False
Do While .Execute(Forward:=True) = True
range.HighlightColorIndex = wdPink
End With
End Sub

Note: You need to use judgement with the results of any macro. This macro will highlight the telling words, but only you can decide if it's an instance of telling.

To figure out what to do with the words the macro highlights, refer to Janice Hardy's excellent show vs. tell posts. Also, this macro is a work in progress. Are there words I should include? Omit? Let me know in the comments section below.

Not sure what a macro is? See this post for an explanation. See also the videos for adding a macro and running a macro in Microsoft Word 2010.

What do you do with the highlighted words this macro finds? See Carla Douglas' post at the Beyond Paper Editing blog for suggestions.

 Image by Pete

*Karen Woodward calls this macro the AddWords macro because you can add any list of words that you want the macro to find. The first version of this macro was written by Roger Mortis, revised by Subcortical, appropriated for writing by Karen Woodward, tweaked byJami Gold, and further tweaked by me, making it a true community effort.