How to Use Hemingway

Hemingway Desktop Questions

How to Use Hemingway

What's the Hemingway Editor All About?

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.

Too often, our words are like our thoughts — innumerable and disorganized. Almost any bit of writing could use some cutting. Less is more, etc.

So, 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. Your readers will thank you.

Readability Grade Levels

Hemingway builds on the innovations of researchers of a field called “Readability.” These researchers study how understandable a piece of writing is. Part of that work involves trying to decide which U.S. grade level is required to understand your text.

Hemingway judges the “grade level” of your text using the Automated Readability Index. It's a reliable algorithm used since the days of electronic typewriters.

Now, when we say “grade level,” we aren't saying that's who you're writing for. In fact, Ernest Hemingway's work scores as low 5th grade, despite his adult audience. What our measurement actually gauges is the lowest education needed to understand your prose. Studies have shown the average American reads at a tenth-grade level — so that's a good target.

Writing that scores at a 15th grade level is not better than writing at an 8th grade level. In fact, a high grade level often means it is confusing and tedious for any reader. Worse, it's likely filled with jargon. After all, unless you're writing a textbook (and even then) you don't want it to sound like a textbook.

To help you notice sentences that are difficult to read, Hemingway highlights them in yellow. For the most difficult sentences, it uses a red highlight. Don't fret if your text lights up like a Christmas tree, though. With just a few changes, you can get your writing ready for even the toughest critics.

Write and Edit Modes

Begin your document by clicking the "Write" button. This will fade out the editing tools, transferring Hemingway into distraction-free writing mode. Here, you can work out your first draft free from our highlighting.

Once you're finished, click "Edit" to transition back to editing mode. Now you can make changes with real-time Hemingway feedback. Tighten up your prose, clear the highlights, and then share your work with the masses.


Adverbs are like verbs' kryptonite (for non-nerds, they weaken them.) Instead of these verbal atrocities, switch over to a more powerful verb. For instance, instead of saying that someone is “walking slowly” you can say they “tip-toed” or they “crept.” That way, your writing is more vivid.

To help you cut the adverb scourge from your work, Hemingway highlights them in blue.

Words That Can Be Simpler

One of the best ways to make your writing easier on readers is by eliminating words that are too complicated. 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:

“Poor Faulkner. Does he really think big emotions come from big words? He thinks I don't know the ten-dollar words. I know them all right. But there are older and simpler and better words, and those are the ones I use.”

If your “objective” is to make your writing less verbose, you can reach your “goal” by checking our purple highlights. Mouse over those little bits of pomposity and we'll give you a better alternative.

Passive Voice

When it comes to writing, confidence is key. AND YOU DON'T GET IT FROM WRITING IN ALL CAPS. Instead, removing passive voice can give your writing James Bond levels of swagger. Ensure that the subject of your sentence is doing the action, not being acted upon. For instance, “John threw a ball” is better than “the ball was thrown by John.” The first one has classic elegance; the second sounds like a Jeopardy clue.

While passive voice can deflate your writing, it can also hide deep within. To help you smoke it out, Hemingway highlights every instance in green.

Text Formatting

Hemingway comes equipped with a utility belt of formatting goodies. When you click on your writing, you'll see a formatting bar appear at the top.

You can bold, italicize, bulletize, numberize(?), and even turn your a highlighted bit of text into a link. You can also turn paragraphs into different heading sizes.

There are several paragraph styles you can apply, which correspond to their HTML equivalents:

Keyboard Shortcuts

Yup, we've got 'em.

But what if I want to break the rules?

Rules are meant to be broken. If you know what you're doing, don't let us stop you. View our suggestions as just that.

But, don't think you're above sloppy sentences. They happen to all of us, and a helpful nudge can be all we need to get it right.

Hemingway Desktop Questions

Does buying the desktop version give me access to updates?

We've always made Hemingway available for free via the web. If you buy the desktop version, you also get free upgrades whenever we release a new version.

I bought the desktop app but I need the link to download it again

Your order receipt will give you access to download the app again. Check your email for your receipt.

If you can't log in to Gumroad, email us and we'll handle it. Make sure you let us know the email address you typed in when purchasing.

Can I get a copy of my receipt?

We use Gumroad for our checkout process. You should have received an email receipt from them when you purchased. Search your inbox for messages from

If you can't find it, email us and we'll handle it. Make sure you let us know the email address you typed in when purchasing.

When I double-click a Hemingway file, it opens to a blank page

If you're opening by double-clicking, try opening the Hemingway App first and using the File > Open menu to open the file.

How do I paste into Microsoft Word or elsewhere without the Hemingway highlights?

By default, most computers will copy all the formatting when you copy and paste text from one app to another. To fix this, paste by going to the Edit menu in the other program, and choose "Paste and Match Style."

How do I copy and paste in Hemingway?

You can copy and paste via the Edit menu, or by using keyboard shortcuts (Ctrl + C for copy, Ctrl + V for paste). If you're on Mac, Command + C to copy, Command + V to paste.

Hemingway is running slowly, what do I do?

While Hemingway doesn't have a hard limit of how much text it can edit at one time, we have seen some computers run into trouble with very large amounts. In these cases, we recommend breaking up your work and editing one chapter at a time.

Can I install Hemingway on my Mac and my PC?

Each license of the Hemingway Editor is limited to the operating system you purchased it for. Unfortunately, we don't have a method available to switch licenses, so you will need to purchase Hemingway for both operating systems to use it twice.

Can I get a refund?

No problem. Email us and we'll handle it. Make sure you let us know the email address you typed in when purchasing.

Is Hemingway a subscription?

Nope, Hemingway is a one-time purchase. There are no recurring fees.

Need more help? Contact us.

Send us an email and we'll do our best to help as soon as we can.