Hemingway Editor — The Value It Offers

Hemingway home by Zopalic CC0 Public Domain from Pixabay

Why should a writer use the Hemingway editor? According to the suppli­er:

Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. It’s like a spellcheck­er, but for style. It makes sure that your reader will focus on your message, not your prose.” 

I have been using the software for some time. Normally, I use it to check prose previ­ously already crafted in Evernote. I also use it when editing other people’s work.


Using Hemingway Editor

This time I felt a differ­ent approach was neces­sary, use Hemingway as the editor and take snapshots as my work proceeded. By default, the software opens in “Edit” mode. This means issue identi­fic­a­tion is first prior­ity. Hemingway identi­fies the opening sentence of this paragraph as hard to read. 

It is possible to switch to writing mode and not see any of the highlighted text. Write mode is a clean inter­face, with very little confu­sion. You can set text to bold, italic, quotes, bullets, numbers as well as heading levels 1 to 3.

I use this as an editing tool rather than as my preferred writing envir­on­ment. Hence, the major­ity of my comments relate to Edit mode.


Edit Mode

In edit mode there is a panel inten­ded to aid the editor with their work. It highlights use of:

  • Adverbs.
  • Passive voice.
  • Complex phrases.
  • Sentences that are hard to read.
  • Sentences that are very hard to read.

Tools a writer/editor may use when editing the work. The idea being to remove as many faux pas as possible. Hemingway Editor will not tell you if there is a spelling error.

It is helpful in target­ing places where the work needs most editing. Follow the highlights and address each is the intent. But, remem­ber these are just sugges­tions to assist you in build­ing better sentences.



Hemingway Editor AdverbsI like the advice given on the edit panel. Showing that you are within target range is helpful. I have edited works where adverbs are highly, overused. The reason for highlight­ing their is us that some writers have a tendency to overuse them. They don’t make a sentence more specif­ic. Quite the oppos­ite they create ambigu­ity, something no reader needs.

In non-fiction writing I have found that I use few adverbs. In  fiction­al writing I admit that the words become more flowery, thus include more adverbs.

Take a look at this inter­est­ing piece by Nat Russo.


Passive Voice

Every writer uses passive voice to some extent. The primary cure is by putting the actor before the action (or verb). Words like ‘was’, or ‘be’ often indic­ate passive use. 

It is not possible to avoid passive use altogeth­er, but Hemingway helps minim­ise usage. This is something blog writers need as blogs have a more posit­ive impact in active voice.

See:  Curing Passive Voice from the Exploring Expression Website. 


Complex Phrases

What is your object­ive? Do you wish to make your writing less verbose? Reach your goal by check­ing the purple highlights. In this paragraph you can see that the Hemingway editor disliked the word “object­ive”. The sugges­tion, there were simpler altern­at­ives.

Hemingway Editor Complex - alternatives

Hover over the purple highlight then look at the altern­at­ives offered. With this example I prefer the origin­al.



Hemingway Editor - Hard to read sentence

The sentence higlighted in the diagram tagged as hard to read. It has more than 17 words in it. They become very hard to read after 27 words. I disagree that the sentence is hard to read. Arguably, simpler words could have used, for example ‘needed’ instead of ‘neces­sary’. 

This is one area that Hemingway needs changing. Readability formula, in gener­al also demands short­er sentences. This demand for short sentences limits the capab­il­ity of writers to use words to create meaning­ful prose.

According to the suppli­er:

The Hemingway Editor will highlight (in yellow and red) where your writing is too dense. Try remov­ing needless words or split­ting the sentence into two. 


I am not satis­fied with this explan­a­tion. “Too dense” is hardly appro­pri­ate phras­ing. “Too complex” may be what the developers inten­ded to say. A sentence of 21 words is not hard to read, especially with appro­pri­ate use of punctu­ation. 

Do you use commas? Some writers have a ‘thing’ about not using them and often stems from not under­stand­ing usage. Commas aid breath­ing and readab­il­ity. They can also give a sentence some rhythm, when appro­pri­ate.

You should use the highlights to allow you to find sentences that may need atten­tion. Remember you can also take the decision to leave the words exactly as they are.



Readability is import­ant, but you should not base that on sentence length alone.

The state­ment ‘1 of X sentences is hard to read’ within the edit panel, is also mislead­ing. First, there is no guidance about the percent­age of long sentences within the piece. Second the advice about remov­ing needless words or split­ing sentences is unhelp­ful. It is less than the advice my junior school teach­er gave. They should be as long as neces­sary, no more, no less. It is a part of the science of word-craft any writer must learn.

First let’s state, unequi­voc­ally, there is nothing wrong with using longer sentences. Writers must ensure their use is appro­pri­ate. One common error with longer sentences is lapsing into passive voice, yet, with care it is possible to elimin­ate this and craft accept­able and gracious long and very long sentences.


Percentage of Long Sentences

Hemingway Editor: Hard SentencesI have researched the question of readab­il­ity and how it applies to longer sentences. In my view provided the total mumber of longer sentences is fewer than 10% of your script then you are good.

The import­ant aspect here is mixing sentences. Use long and short ones to create prose that is varying in length. I know that 5.2 percent of the sample were long sentences. Fewer than my sugges­ted 10%. Variety in sentence struc­ture matters. Perhaps you should use a very short sentence next to a long one. That gives variety in what you produce. It provides differ­ences in focus for the eyes. Writer’s Refief asks — Is is varied? Then, does it fit the mood you are trying to convey?

The mood conveyed is vital. This impacts word choice, sentence and paragraph struc­ture, and of course length.

The same should be true with paragraphs they should convey a partic­u­lar topic. Some will be long, others short. It should follow a natur­al flow. Indeed the reader will thank you for provid­ing variety in your writing. Better to have one paragraph two lines in length; follow that with one nine lines long; then one four lines long; than three paragraphs of five lines each. Even length tends to bore the reader. Being flexible gives variety.


About Hemingway (The App)

Go to the Hemingway App website and you can use the app for free. Copy and paste your text to have it analysed. You can edit it within the web page. Do this for each piece as many times as you wish — there are no limits to free use on the web. You need an Internet connec­tion to use it. 

Purchase the Hemingway Editor applic­a­tion for either Mac or PC for US$19.99. Then you can write using the app, edit, and analyse your work even without the Internet. Use it anywhere.

You can import word processing documents, text files and html files to edit them. Once edited you can export to the same location and even create a PDF file. 

Also you can publish direct to WordPress. This is precisely what I will do as soon as this sentence is complete and the document edited. My sugges­tion — save the post in draft mode, you will need to add pictures etc. Personally, once a piece is in WordPress there is still further editing to do to ensure the piece is ready for produc­tion. In Hemingway I used the default fonts — here in WordPress these are changed to suit my publish­ing style. Since, I also add the extras that are included in all published pages. It will also publish directly to Medium.

One good aspect is that readab­il­ity checks are normally simpli­fied, once in WordPress.


Other Work By Peter

The follow­ing posts also talk about tools, you, as a blog writer may find useful:



As a writer what tools do you use? If you use Hemingway Editor please tell my readers what you think of the app. Something else to contrib­ute? Please leave a comment.
If you like this post then make a donation to the upkeep of GobbledeGoox as a way to thank Peter Giblett. #Follow Peter on Twitter.  The images here were either created or owned by Peter Giblett or have been sourced from a public domain location, such as Pixabay.



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