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Blog > Understanding Publishing – Posted on March 13, 2020

Hemingway App Review: Will it REALLY Improve Your Writing?

There are all sorts of writing apps out there, and each one takes a different approach. Scrivener has its suite of organizational tools, for instance, while the Reedsy Book Editor makes it simple to take your story from draft to upload-ready ebook. Between all the options at authors’ fingertips, there’s no end to the ways you can use technology as you take on the task of writing a book. But even in this crowded field, the Hemingway app is unique: they’ve based their software around Ernest Hemingway’s iconic writing style.

But does this work? And more importantly, should you use this app over any of the other choices out there? Let’s break it down and see exactly what the Hemingway app offers writers, so you can make that decision for yourself.

What is the Hemingway App?

The Hemingway app is a distraction-free writing and editing tool designed to help you polish your writing. It focuses on identifying common errors that bring down the quality of your prose: confusing sentence construction, overuse of weak adverbs, excessive passive voice, and the like.

You can use a free version of the app right on the website. Or if you’d rather work offline (and gain a few more options, which we’ll get into in a moment), you can buy a standalone version for a one-time purchasing fee of $19.99.

The Hemingway App for desktops

Feature Overview

There are two modes in the Hemingway app: writing and editing. You can switch between them via a toggle on the sidebar. Each mode is fast and responsive, as is changing from one mode to the other.

Writing Mode

The writing mode is designed to be unobtrusive, with a minimalist interface. Formatting buttons along the top allow you to make your text bold or italic, set your headings, add a blockquote or a list (either in bullet point or numbered), as well as create links. There are no page breaks, or detailed formatting options to create print layouts — this app is truly about writing, and writing only.

Editing Mode

Switch to editing mode, and you’ll see most of the Hemingway features come into play. In addition to a summary of your work’s readability level, estimated reading time, and length, Hemingway analyzes your work and highlights a variety of potential problem areas.

  • Blue highlights mean it’s identified an adverb or a qualifier.
  • Purple highlights show it’s found a complex word that can be replaced with a simpler one.
  • Green highlights are for passive voice.
  • Yellow highlights denote complex sentences.
  • Red highlights indicate an extremely complex sentence.

Mousing over these highlights will remind you of which type of problem has been identified, though only a few types of errors offer suggestions for fixes. You can remove adverbs, for instance, with the click of a button, but you’ll have to change to active voice on your own.

The Hemingway app running in a browser

Other functionality

Once you’ve finished drafting, the desktop version can export your work in a few different ways. You can even publish straight to Medium or WordPress. Hemingway can also import from Word .docx files. This, plus the emphasis on tight writing, does make it a solid tool for writing web content.

It’s worth noting, however, that only the desktop version has any save or export/import functionality at all — if you want to use the free one, you’ll have to copy and paste your work into and out of Hemingway yourself and save it somewhere else.

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Weighing the choice

Pros

  • Free to try out, and inexpensive to buy the full version
  • Points out common stylistic and grammatical errors
  • Easy way to check your reading level
  • Provides an estimated read time

Cons

  • There’s no way to save or import/export your work in the free version.
  • It focuses on only a handful of grammar choices
  • Most of the highlights don’t offer suggestions for how to fix the problem they’ve identified

So, should you use the Hemingway App?

It’s free to test out, so if it sounds like something you’d like, there’s no reason not to play around with it. Hemingway has some nice features and is a good way to check the readability of your work, so it’s useful for something like a blog post, essay, or article, but less useful for a whole book. The estimated read time and reading level are helpful metrics as well, depending on the medium you’re writing for.

The editing highlights, while helpful, could use a few more suggestions for how to improve the text. On the other hand, merely working with the Hemingway Editor for an extended period would likely train you to spot these types of mistakes as you’re writing — improving your self-editing skills, and hopefully raising the overall quality of your first drafts.

However, there are no formatting options geared toward making books, so if you're writing a longer piece, this won't help you get your file ready for publication. And it certainly isn't feasible to use the free version for larger work.

The other big deciding factor is going to be how closely your writing style follows the Hemingway standards. If you’re aiming for short, tight sentences, this app will help you trim down your work. But if you’re not writing to the Hemingway ideal — such as if you’re crafting a “voicey” piece of fiction, or certain types of nonfiction where passive voice is appropriate — this app won’t have much to offer you.


Have you ever tried the Hemingway app? Let us know in the comments what makes a piece of writing software truly useful to you!