Alternatives to Hemingway Editor: Brush Up Your Writing Style
If you’re writing a book (and I assume you are if you’re hanging out with me here), you probably know there are a metric boat load of different writing apps and tools out there to join you on your journey.
There also seems to be a never-ending number of programs for each stage of the writing process. And don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that’s a bad thing—I think it only makes us stronger authors when we have technology that can improve or complement our skills.
The trick is picking the ones that work best with your writing process and your sweet word skills.
In this article, we’re going to examine one particular author tool, Hemingway Editor, and a handful of alternatives you might want to consider adding to your writing arsenal.
Specifically, we’re going to talk about:
- What Hemingway Editor is and how it can help you
- Why tools like Hemingway Editor and its alternatives are important
- The key factors we’ll use to assess alternative tools
- A comparison of all the different editor options you have
The goal here isn’t to sell you on Hemingway Editor or one of the alternatives we’ll be discussing. No, the goal is to make you aware of what’s out there and get that big author brain of yours thinking about what tools can help you write your best book.
What is Hemingway Editor?
Unlike a lot of other writing programs we’ve discussed here at DabbleU, Hemingway Editor isn’t technically built to help you write your book.
Instead, Hemingway Editor swoops in once you’re finished your draft to, as the name suggests, help you edit.
Now, we’re not talking about copy editing, which is the kind of editing that looks for spelling, grammar, punctuation, and other technical errors. Rather, Hemingway Editor claims to “make your writing bold and clear.”
Named after the famously (or infamously) concise and clear writer, Ernest Hemingway, this writing tool is a shockingly powerful tool to improve your writing style and the substance of your words.
I say shockingly because Hemingway Editor is one of the most minimalist tools I’ve ever used when writing. That minimalism even extends to its price: Hemingway Editor is free for all to use.
At its core, Hemingway Editor is a web-based app that has two modes: editing and writing.
While in editing mode, Hemingway uses five colors to highlight elements in your writing:
Yellow highlighting means your writing is hard to read, usually because it’s too lengthy, complex, or filled with common errors.
Red highlighting is worse and means your writing is very hard to read. It's dense, illogical, wanders, or is just freakin’ complicated.
Purple highlighting tells you your phrasing is unnecessarily complex and a simpler word is doable.
Blue highlighting is saved for adverbs, which usually (but not always) indicate weak writing.
Green highlighting shows you where you’re using the passive voice, usually another indicator of weak writing.
And yes, it will give you the classic red squiggly underline for most grammar and spelling errors, but this tool isn’t meant to be a grammar checker. Instead, it wants to improve your craft with those five different colors.
On top of that, editing mode can show you how many words, letters, characters, sentences, and paragraphs you’ve written, as well as an estimated amount of time it would take to read it.
Finally, it will give you an approximate idea of the grade level required to read your work. The folks behind Hemingway Editor say most people in the U.S. read at a tenth-grade level, so you’ll want to aim for somewhere below that for maximum audience understanding.
You can switch over to writing mode, which eliminates everything except the built-in word processor, letting you write efficiently without colored highlights popping up to decimate your self-esteem.
“Hemingway Editor” refers to the free, web-based version of the program, but there is a downloadable editing software, too, dubbed the Hemingway App.
The Hemingway App is almost identical to the online Editor, except it…
- Is a software download for offline use
- Allows you to save your work to continue later
- Can export your finalized work into formats like HTML, PDF, and Word
- Has the option to publish directly to your blogs on Wordpress and Medium
- Costs $19.99 (and you keep it forever)
Are those four extra options worth $20? I’ll let you decide for yourself as we go over the pros and cons of Hemingway.
What Hemingway Editor Does Well
Let’s be clear, there is a reason Hemingway Editor is as popular as it is: it does some things right, and it does those things really right. Here’s what I’m talking about.
It’s free - I mean, this should be a no brainer. Considering most authors don’t make a living off their work (that’s not to say you can’t, and you can click here to learn more about author income), the less we have to spend on things, the better. The best parts of Hemingway Editor—the style and substance highlighting—aren’t blocked behind a paywall, which is a big win.
Style editing - This is where Hemingway really stands out amongst the crowd. The five categories it highlights in your writing are areas all writers should be working on and will be working on throughout their entire career. And Hemingway makes these categories stand out in a way you can’t miss, so you’re going to be repeating those fixes over and over again until you fine tune your skills (and writing).
Readability assessment - Very few of us know what level we actually write at. If you write epic fantasy, you might be using more complex words and longer sentences. If you’re writing middle grade or young adult fiction, you want to aim for a bit less complexity. That doesn’t mean you want to dumb it down, but Hemingway can help point you in the right direction.
What Hemingway Editor Doesn’t Do So Well
If the Hemingway Editor does some things knocks out of the park, does that mean it’s perfect for you? Unfortunately, it’s not so crystal clear because there are some things the program doesn’t do so well.
Grammar checker - Even though it’s an “editor,” Hemingway doesn’t focus on things like grammar, spelling, or punctuation. While it will catch some things, it’s not a replacement for a copy editor (no program or software is yet). You’ll see some of the alternatives can check for both style and grammar.
The Hemingway App - If one of the best parts of the Hemingway Editor is that it’s free, its con is that you need to pay for the very limited additional capabilities of saving your work, working offline, exporting, and direct publishing. For some, this might not be a huge con.
It’s better for shorter work - As authors, our work is on a larger scale than most writers. We’re talking tens, even hundreds of thousands of words to check. Hemingway Editor is great for checking something like a 2,000-word web article, but it isn’t designed for book-length work.
Only a style editor - In the same vein as its limited grammar checking abilities, Hemingway Editor doesn’t offer anything beyond a style editor. No plotting tools, no character development aids, nothing. That’s not to say filling a niche is a bad thing.
Do You Need a Style Editor Like Hemingway?
Before we get into the criteria Hemingway Editor alternatives and those other choices themselves, let’s talk about why we want to use a tool like Hemingway.
Do authors need a style editor?
Technically, no. Just like, technically, you can publish a book without any line breaks or without checking for spelling errors.
Maybe that’s a bit extreme, but it gets the point across: the quality of your writing is entirely up to you. If you want to use the tools available to you to improve your writing, that’s great. If you don’t, that’s your choice.
Hemingway Editor and the alternatives we’re going to be looking at help fill that role. The five elements Hemingway highlights are a part of improving your writing, so learning to identify and fix them will make you a stronger writer.
So no, you don’t need a tool like Hemingway Editor… unless you want to be a better author.
Criteria for Assessing Alternatives
This is our last stop before we check out the Hemingway Editor competitors you may want to consider. Let’s establish some criteria or categories that we’ll use to compare these pieces of software.
Price - For many authors, especially those who don’t have a substantial income from their writing yet, price is the make-or-break point. I always suggest you don’t spend money if you can’t afford it, but the decision is ultimately yours.
Style editing - It wouldn’t be fair if we didn’t pit style editors against Hemingway, because that’s exactly what it does.
Writing tool - We’re authors, after all, so what writing capacity do the alternatives give us?
Extra features - These are especially important if you’re paying for a Hemingway alternative. What else does the tool have to offer?
Make sense? Let’s dive into these other writing tools.
Alternatives to Hemingway Editor
Because Hemingway Editor fills a style editing niche, it doesn’t have a lot of competition out there. I’m not going to include any ol’ word processor or novel-writing software that happens to have a spell checker; that’s not what Hemingway does, after all.
Instead, I want to introduce you to three editing programs that will basically force you to improve your writing if you use them enough:
These aren’t in any particular order, so don’t think they’re ranked #1-3. As you read about these alternatives, though, think about which one will help your writing craft the most.
ProWritingAid: More Than Just an Editor
If you've ever found yourself wondering if there’s a tool that not only scrutinizes your writing style but also dives deep into the intricacies of grammar, readability, and writing habits, then ProWritingAid might be the answer.
You also wonder about weird things, but I’m not here to judge.
Heralded by many as a writing coach tucked inside a software package, ProWritingAid promises not just to point out your mistakes but also to guide you through them, ensuring you understand and grow with each edit.
For the discerning author keeping an eye on their budget, ProWritingAid offers both free and premium versions. The free version is great for a quick dip into the tool’s capabilities, but for the complete suite of features and no word count limitations, you might consider their premium plans.
These range from monthly and yearly subscriptions to a one-time lifetime purchase.
There is a big difference between the monthly and annual prices, though. At the time of writing (September 2023), ProWritingAid Premium is $30/month on a monthly subscription or $90/year on an annual one, which is a whopping 75% off when you break it down monthly.
Depending on your commitment to writing and the depth of your pockets, you can make a choice that best fits you.
Unlike Hemingway Editor, which largely focuses on the readability and conciseness of your text, ProWritingAid delves deep. It offers over 20 different writing reports, each analyzing different aspects of your writing. From repetitiveness to pacing, vague wording, sentence structure, and even over-dependence on particular words, this tool takes the concept of style editing to a comprehensive level.
What stands out with ProWritingAid is its capacity to not just highlight problems but also to explain them. The tool offers suggestions and articles to guide you on why a particular element of your writing might need refining.
This transforms the editing process into a learning experience, which sounds kind of boring but is invaluable when developing your writing career.
If Hemingway Editor is your diligent editor, ProWritingAid is both an editor and a writing coach.
ProWritingAid doesn’t shine as a writing tool, though a downloadable desktop app is available, but through its integration into common writing software. Though its primary focus is editing, its desktop application and integrations with popular software like Microsoft Word, Google Docs, and other platforms make it a seamless part of your writing journey.
Instead of switching between platforms, ProWritingAid meets you right where you are, offering real-time suggestions and corrections as you pour your thoughts onto the page.
That includes Dabble, our very own novel-writing platform that is helping countless authors across the globe create their novels. With ProWritingAid built into Dabble, your spelling, grammar, and style errors are a thing of the past.
ProWritingAid’s extra features set it apart from many of its competitors. It boasts a plagiarism checker, which, although available only in the premium pricing tier, is invaluable for bloggers, students, or any writer keen on ensuring their work’s originality.
Another highlight is its detailed visualizations. Whether you're looking to understand your sentence lengths, get an idea of how frequently you’re using certain words, or want a visual representation of your writing's structure, ProWritingAid has you covered.
The tool also conducts a comprehensive summary report of your writing, providing an overall score which can be a benchmark to strive for improvement.
Lastly, its integration with other tools is an aspect not to be understated. From browser extensions that assist you with emails and online writing, to its compatibility with popular writing platforms, ProWritingAid ensures that you have robust editing support wherever you write.
At its heart, ProWritingAid goes beyond being just an editing tool, positioning itself as an invaluable writing companion for those eager to refine their craft at every turn.
Grammarly: The Modern Editor for the Digital Age
When the name "Grammarly" pops up in a conversation about writing tools, nods of recognition usually follow.
Hitting the scene as a robust grammar checker, Grammarly has since evolved into a comprehensive writing assistant, revered by writers, students, professionals, and anyone aiming to polish their digital communication.
With an elegant user interface and a real-time feedback system, Grammarly aims to ensure that every piece of your writing is not just correct but impactful and clear.
Grammarly offers a freemium model. The free version provides basic spelling, punctuation, and grammar checks, which, for many, is a substantial step up from standard word processors.
However, if you’re looking for a Hemingway Editor competitor and wish to delve deeper into advanced corrections, clarity-focused suggestions, tone detection, and more, there's Grammarly Premium. It comes with a monthly subscription starting at $12.00/month.
For professional writers, businesses, or teams, Grammarly Business offers a tailored package.
While its roots are in grammar checking, Grammarly has grown to encompass style editing that rivals many dedicated style editors. Its suggestions focus on clarity, engagement, and delivery.
Whether you're overusing a particular word, writing in a passive voice, or employing potentially unclear antecedents, Grammarly points it out.
A standout feature is its tone detector, which provides insight into how your message might come across to readers, be it confident, friendly, formal, or otherwise.
Grammarly’s design facilitates a fluid writing experience. While you can directly write or upload documents on the Grammarly web app, its strength lies in integrations, like ProWritingAid.
The Grammarly browser extension works with most web platforms, including Gmail, Twitter/X (at the time of writing, it’s unclear what name is going to hang around), LinkedIn, and WordPress. There's also a Grammarly plugin for Microsoft Word and a native desktop app.
With all that versatility, you can ensure error-free writing across multiple platforms without breaking your workflow.
One of Grammarly's distinguishing features is its ability to customize suggestions based on writing goals. Before diving into an edit, you can set goals based on the intent (e.g., inform, describe), audience (e.g., general, expert), style (e.g., formal, informal), and emotion (e.g., neutral, optimistic). This allows for personalized feedback tailored to your writing's purpose.
Grammarly also shines with its weekly performance stats and insights, sent via email. These reports provide details about your writing habits, productivity, vocabulary, and even how you compare with other Grammarly users.
They also remind you when you haven’t written, which is a nice kick in the pants.
Lastly, Grammarly is really leaning into generative artificial intelligence (AI) as that technology becomes more popular and accessible. Their AI, GrammarlyGo, comes with 100 prompts per month for free accounts and 1,000 for premium accounts. You can use these prompts to get Grammarly to come up with new ideas or write original passages, to a certain extent.
Grammarly's prominence in the writing tool realm is well-deserved. Balancing simplicity with depth, it's not just an editor; it's a comprehensive writing assistant that adapts to various digital platforms and communication needs.
AutoCrit: The Fiction Writer's Secret Weapon
Every writing tool has its niche, and for AutoCrit, that niche is fiction.
Born from the concept that fiction authors, particularly those in the realm of genre fiction, needed a tool designed specifically for their challenges and intricacies, AutoCrit steps in with a specialized approach.
Imagine a platform that compares your manuscript to bestselling novels in real time, pinpointing stylistic discrepancies. That's AutoCrit in a nutshell. With its suite of detailed analytics and genre-specific advice, it's no wonder AutoCrit has made a splash in the writer community.
AutoCrit operates on a freemium model like the other two Hemingway alternatives, meaning you only pay when you’re ready to use the enhanced tools.
While the free version gives you a taste of the style editor with a writing tool and advanced grammar checker, the paid memberships unlock the full power of AutoCrit's analysis, breaking down elements from pacing to dialogue, word choice, and beyond.
With a monthly cost of $30 or annual subscription fee (priced at 60% off based on the monthly breakdown), the platform can be a significant investment for dedicated authors.
AutoCrit's forte is its ability to offer real-time feedback on more than 30 areas of fiction writing, ranging from the use of adverbs and cliches to sentence variation and pacing. It's not just about grammar or conventional style—it's about the narrative style.
For instance, if your dialogue tags are becoming too repetitive or if certain phrases echo the cadence of a previously published work, AutoCrit will alert you.
On top of that, AutoCrit focuses on analyzing your author voice throughout your novel.
While you can draft directly within AutoCrit's online platform, its primary value isn't as a standalone word processor. Instead, it's the analytical depth the platform provides once you upload or write your chapters. Unlike tools designed for broader audiences, AutoCrit is tailored for fiction, making its suggestions and analysis uniquely relevant for novelists.
One of AutoCrit's standout features is its genre-specific guidance. You can compare your manuscript against successful titles in genres ranging from romance and sci-fi to young adult and fantasy. This comparison gives authors a tangible benchmark against industry standards and breaks the report down to those 30 different elements.
The platform also offers a series of guides and resources for writers, tackling topics from character development to crafting tension. For those seeking community, AutoCrit's member forums allow for manuscript swaps, feedback exchanges, and general writerly camaraderie.
Of all the alternatives in this article (and even compared to most writing software), AutoCrit has one of the most active communities and frequently hosts events for its members.
AutoCrit also just introduced their Inspiration Studio, which helps you create your novel’s beat sheet and can even provide suggestions when you’re stuck on what’s next or if you want to change the mood of some of your writing.
In essence, AutoCrit goes beyond mere editing—it's a mentor in software form. For fiction authors seeking detailed, genre-tailored feedback, it stands as a formidable contender in the writing tool lineup.
You Can’t Edit Style Without a Strong Foundation
Style editors like Hemingway and the three alternatives we just looked at can be incredibly powerful tools, but only if you’re committed to your craft. As authors, we are constantly improving, coming up with original plot ideas, developing complex, memorable characters, and writing books that leave readers hungry for more.
If you want a way to level-up your writing (for free), all you need to do is click here to sign up for Dabble’s newsletter. I promise we don’t spam you like other newsletters; all you’ll get is high-quality, informative articles delivered right to your inbox.
So sign up and start becoming a better writer today.
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