Obviously named after Ernest Hemingway, the Hemingway app is a popular free writing tool created by Adam and Ben Long.
Compared to other grammar and spelling checkers and writing software, it is quick, easy, and a much simpler alternative.
A desktop version of the Hemingway Editor is available for Mac and PC, which is quite cheap. But most users will probably prefer to use the free online writing editor.
Like all free writing tools, there are some compromises. So how well does the Hemingway grammar app stack up as a writing aid and grammar checker?
Can you improve your writing with the Hemingway app?
Yes, without a doubt, you definitely can.
It is a capable little online app and super easy to use.
But just because it looks simple, don’t underestimate what it can do.
It can help you improve some of your fundamental writing problems and mistakes.
It is one of the quickest and easiest ways to find the passive voice and overused adverbs in your texts to make them easier to read.
Hemingway App and Editor review
When you first go to the Hemingway web page, you will land on the editor screen, as shown in the image below.
On the left is the editor pane. On the right, the results panel is where Hemingway highlights suggested improvements you can make to your text.
It is easy to see why it is sometimes called the rainbow editor. There are five colors to show you the areas of improvement you can make to your writing.
The one minor annoyance for me is that you need to select all the demo text and delete it. Then you can paste in your piece of writing before you can get started.
A clear screen would be more convenient, but then again, perhaps the rainbow of colors is more appealing to the eye.
But once you paste in your text, you can get started on improving your writing. You use the five colors to guide you to where you need to make corrections.
The big plus for Hemingway is that it clearly highlights the potential improvements you can make to your writing.
The user interface is straightforward and easy to use. But at the same time, it provides you with a lot of useful information.
You can also use the Hemingway tool as a simple, distraction-free word processor.
Select the Write tab in the top right corner of the screen to switch to the word processor mode.
You can continue to edit your text on the write screen.
Once again, however, if you start in write mode, you need to select all the sample text and delete it before you can begin.
But once you start typing or have pasted your text, you can quickly switch between write and edit modes to work on correcting your writing.
PROS – The really good stuff
Most free web-based apps have a word limit of around 2-3,000 words at most. If the Hemingway Editor has a limit, I couldn’t find it.
I copied and pasted a full novella of over 20,000 words into the app.
It accepted it without even a small lag. You can check the word count in the image above. 21,009.
All my text appeared instantly, with the results in edit mode for reading grade level, readability grade, reading time, word count, and suggested corrections and improvements.
You can also see clearly in the image above that the editor has highlighted hundreds of possible improvements.
In the help section for the app, it says, Hemingway makes your writing bold and clear. Tighten up your prose, clear the highlights, and then share your work with the masses.
As you can see by the five different colored recommendations for writing style in the image, the app certainly concentrates on clarity in writing.
Another way to look at it could be to think that clarity means simplicity. It will help you construct sentences that are short, to the point, and easy to read.
For a blog post, that is indeed a valid aim to have. But for fiction writers, maybe not so much.
However, the readability level is very much worth noting. You can aim for a grade that will be suitable for the type or age group of your readers.
For bloggers, you could perhaps aim for a lower grade to suit international readers who might not use English as a first language.
For fiction authors, you might want to target a readability grade that will suit your target readers.
One last little feature is the estimated reading time. It’s a nice bonus and useful for article writers especially.
All the ideas Hemingway gives you can help you improve and tighten up any form of writing.
What do the colors mean?
The central focus of the Hemingway checker is on sentence structure.
Blue highlights adverbs that can be either deleted or replaced with another structure.
Green indicates any sentence that uses the passive voice;
Purple is to show you sentences that can be simplified.
Yellow highlights a sentence that the app considers to be hard to read.
Brown is for sentences that are very hard to read.
The number of sentences noted in my test as very hard by the app was often similar to those classed as difficult to read.
So I am not sure the app notes a lot of difference between hard and very hard-to-read sentences.
But it is a useful tool to help find long sentences quickly that might hinder reading clarity.
By far, the best use for the app is locating passive voice phrases so you can replace them with the active voice.
It is also extremely good at finding and highlighting adverbs, which Stephen King calls weeds.
It is a quick, free, and easy way to help you rid your text of most occurrences.
When writing blog posts or content articles, it is always good practice to keep adverbs and passive sentences to an absolute minimum.
The best feature of the Hemingway editor is that it accepts a huge word count without a problem and processes the text very quickly.
It is a simple and efficient way to find the two most common errors and writing flaws. These are the overuse of the passive voice and too many adverbs.
CONS – The not so good stuff
With the free version of the Hemingway app editor, there is no facility to save or export your work.
It is a considerable downside.
When you are working online, a lot can and will go wrong.
Working on a long text in this app is like being a trapeze artist with no safety net.
One minor online glitch and all your revisions and hard work are gone.
If you want to be able to save and export, you will need to pay for the desktop version.
Another annoyance is that there is no basic spell checker.
It makes using the app as a word processor in write mode a futile exercise.
But as you can see by the dotted red lines in the image below, you can get a spell check if you use the spell checker in the Chrome browser.
While the app uses slide-over popup hint boxes, there is little more you can do with them other than omit adverbs or unnecessary words.
But once you click omit and remove the word or adverb, there is no undo function.
All other hint boxes are only that, hints. So you need to re-write every phrase.
There are no hint boxes for hard-to-read or very hard-to-read sentences.
Lastly, Hemingway is not a grammar checker or punctuation tool.
If you are looking for one-click grammar and punctuation correction, this is not the app for you.
Apart from removing extra words and adverbs, there is no other click functionality.
Wrap up on the Hemingway app
The Hemingway writing app in free or paid versions is not a grammar checker.
It is a simple writing style checker that focuses on only a few elements in the writing process.
These are long, complex sentences, adverbs, and passive voice.
You need to do all the re-writing. But without any guidance about how to correct or improve your text.
It is ideal for quickly checking a 500-word blog post or school essay.
But for working writers, Hemingway doesn’t have much to offer for long-form writing analysis.
There are far better choices that do a lot more to help you check and improve your writing.
But it is free, fast, and delivers on what it promises.
It is a useful tool to use from time to time. You can do a quick check of your texts to tighten up your writing.
Yes, I have Hemingway in my bookmarks.
I use it now and again to check my reading grade when I write new blog posts.
It is a quick little tool that gives you some handy information such as reading level and estimated reading time.
But as a writing checker or text editor, the Hemingway Editor is quite limited. However, it offers a little help in checking your writing.
The most significant downsides are that there is no grammar or spell checker, and you cannot save or export your work.
There are a lot of other choices when it comes to free writing checkers. You can read our article listing 17 free writing checkers that you can try.
Many offer you far more and much better options than the Hemingway editor.
Related reading: The Best Book Editing Software And Apps For Authors