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A Hemingway Editor Review—Does It Suck?

Cartoon. Hemingway. Faulkner. A Hemingway editor review. cartoon illustration drawing by Katherine M Kennedy
Hemingway and Faulkner had a throw down, but why did I find that out through the Hemingway App help section? Why!?


What Is Hemingway Editor/ App?

Hemingway Editor or App is a writing assistant. It can be used online for free or through a downloadable version for a once of cost of $19.99. The free version requires an internet connection, doesn’t allow you to download or save your corrected copy, and you can’t publish directly to another platform. But you can easily copy and paste your writing manually, so that's not a big problem.

Do I Use Hemingway Editor For My Writing?

I use the free version of Hemingway Editor for content writing for clients, but I don’t use it for my own personal writing. I did—briefly—try and use Hemingway Editor for my book because why not? It’s free, and I wanted to, so I wrote a whole scene using the app. My sentences became overly stilted in an attempt to appease the Hemingway view on sentence length. It just read plain weird. I don’t recommend Hemingway Editor for anyone trying to write long-form content, like a novel. Recently I’ve read more than a few books where I detected the Hemingway influence, with the content reading more like a bullet list without the bullets. The program works primarily through shortened sentences. It doesn’t take the content much further than that. And long sentences can be great, particularly in literature.

Hemingway Editor and The Short Sentence Trend

There is a theory that shorter sentences enhance readability and readability, and readability is a massive factor in SEO. I tend towards long, wordy sentences by nature, so I use Hemingway Editor to track when I’ve taken it too far. Hemingway takes out its red pen, and I correct it accordingly. If you are going to use it, then the most important thing to remember is that the highlights and suggestions are just that, suggestions. I think the developers made a massive mistake choosing to highlight long, wordy sentences in red, as it too readily implies that the sentence is wrong. It’s not. It’s just long.

“….your sentence is so dense and complicated that your readers will get lost trying to follow its meandering, splitting logic….”

—Hemingway Editor.

Hemingway Editor Has A lot of Opinions—Strange Opinions. Distracting Opinions.

While researching Hemingway Editor, I got completely distracted by the app's help section. I must know who wrote it because it is wild!

"While many people "utilize" big words to sound more educated, you should "use" more common synonyms if they exist. If you don't believe me, just take Papa's word for it."

—Hemingway Editor Help Section

Whose Papa? What is happening? Also, what a wild statement about er... 'big' words. If I twist it hard enough, it sounds like they are suggesting it's bad to sound educated. Or if I take an extra mean-spirited step, that the users of Hemingway Editor shouldn't sound educated. Whether it's that "adverbs are like verbs' kryptonite" and "verbal atrocities" or that "removing passive voice can give your writing James Bond levels of swagger," the Hemingway Editor team has lots of opinions. And they aren't afraid to share them.

Okay, it was driving me nuts, so I looked it up. Apparently, there was something of a throwdown between Hemingway and Faulkner around vocabulary choices. Faulkner said Hemingway was a coward, and Hemingway said Faulkner was a drunkard. It’s all very riveting stuff. Stuff that happened over fifty years ago! So, why is it in the help section of an automated writing assistant? I hate it. I love it. It’s awesome. I want to buy the writer a drink and get to know him, her or them better. I will never disagree with a help section being entertaining and causing me to learn something new even if I do disagree with their overly formed opinions on adverbs.

Read I love adverbs- Fight me for a spirited defense of English’s most maligned parts of speech.

Testing Hemingway Editors Editing Skills

Hemingway Editor is all about shorter sentences. And it doesn't seem to care how you get there. I slapped this post into the Editor and got a readability of Grade 7. Not bad, I could leave it as is, but Hemingway Editor suggests that its namesake writes as low as Grade 5.

"Ernest Hemingway's work scores as low 5th grade, despite his adult audience."

—Hemingway Editor

Screenshot. Hemingway Editor. Grade 7. sample text. Good. Example. 60KB. jpg
Grade 7 Hemingway Editor

A little bit of manipulating—erasing all my full stops—got me up to Post-graduate- poor. Aim for 14. The more full stops I erased, the higher the Grade level rose. This is not an intelligent, AI system, this a word counter with extra steps.

Screenshot. Hemingway Editor. Post graduate. example. red. long stentences. no full stops. poor aim for 14. 78KB
Delete full stops to get Post Graduate Hemingway Editor.

I got to Grade 5- good, by throwing in a bunch of full stops until there was no red. I was left with gibberish, but Good, Grade 5 gibberish.

Screenshot. Hemingway Editor. with full stops. short sentences. Example. Grade 5.
Add full stops to get Grade 5 Hemingway Editor Result.

Then I copied in a list of the longest words in the English language and strung them together into a sentence that couldn't possibly make sense. I got "Post-graduate. Good. Aim for 14."

screenshot. Hemingway Editor. post graduate. Gibberish words. example.
Long words that make no sense as a sentence to get Post-Graduate Hemingway Editor Result.

At this point, I'm confused. The content doesn't seem to matter at all, only the sentence length, even if the sentences are one word long and don't make any sense. And that’s why I won't hang my hat on Hemingway Editor. I suggest that anybody who uses the program keep in mind that the algorithm behind the program seems to run on number of words, length of words, and the number of full stops. Only use it with your own goals front of mind and avoid being lured into writing nonsense to make a computer program happy.

Hemingway Editor—The Good

  • Features: It highlights adverbs, passive phrases, words with simpler alternatives, long, medium, and short sentences

  • Easy to use: It is the most straightforward writing assistant I have found

  • SEO: Encourages shorter sentences which is good for SEO

  • Broad View: It gives an overarching view of your writing, making it easy to broad picture problems at a glance

  • Free version: The free version has most of the features of the paid version

  • It's cheap compared to other writing tools: The paid version is a one off cost rather than a subscription service, making it cheaper in the long run

Hemingway Editor—The Bad

  • Style and Versatility: It saps the originality out of writing. The suggestions and style are not customizable. Hemingway’s way is the only way.

  • It's dictatorial: Hemingway Editor has a lot of opinions on writing that are too definitive and don’t leave room for the writer.

  • Editing: It doesn’t catch many—if any—grammar or spelling mistakes

  • The app is geared more toward business writing rather than creative endeavors. It is also better for shorter pieces rather than long-form writing.

  • It has very few features: Hemingway Editor is so dumbed down that following its advice frequently results in awful writing.

  • It's not very sophisticated: With so few features, the app does little to assist with good writing

Do I Recommend Hemingway Editor?

No, but I was an inch away from saying yes.

I absolutely do NOT recommend the paid version. Even as a once-off cost, that is twenty dollars ill-spent, particularly when the free version is available.

The only situations where I would recommend Hemingway Editor:

  1. Your client wants you to use it

  2. Through your own editing process, you have decided that your sentences are too long and need to be shorter.

  3. You find Hemingway Editor helpful and don't care what I think (which is fair enough)

Even then, if you are going to use Hemingway Editor, then proceed with care. I always use Hemingway Editor in tandem with Grammarly. I use Hemingway Editor to shorten any sentences as my client prefers, then I use Grammarly to check for errors such as sentence fragments which using Hemingway inevitably creates. Then I copy the corrected text back into Hemingway to check the sentence lengths haven't grown during the correction process, then back into Hemingway, then back into Grammarly. It's tedious, but it is much quicker than doing it manually using my own fallible brain power. I don't like the App, but I would be annoyed if Hemingway vanished from the internet, leaving me to use more complicated tools like ProWritingAid, which is exhaustingly complex.


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