A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.
Doesn’t that quote ring true?
I know it does for me.
But for a long time, I didn’t really know why.
Then I figured it out: no matter how well we write, we writers always want to write better.
We want to be more descriptive, evocative, precise, concise…
…it’s always something with us.
But that’s not a bad thing.
In fact, that’s one of the greatest things about writers: we’re always struggling to get better.
And for those who feel like they never write well at all — it’s seems an eternal struggle.
So how do you go about writing whether you’re the writing ‘type’ or not?
Grab a few of these online tools and get to work!
1. Make It Strong
Strengthen your writing, avoid dreaded cliches and make sure you’re not accidentally plagiarizing with these tools that range from free to affordable.
Using huge language databases like GoogleWeb, this app searches for your selected text across the web. It will show you examples of where your text block is used across the web, shows you words which are used most often and their synonyms, among other helpful services that help you as you write. It plugs into just about any writing tool you might use. Sign up at the monthly rate of $5 or buy an entire year of writing help for $25.
- Hemingway Keep your writing Hemingway clear, concise and simple. This tool highlights sentences that are too long in yellow (or red for major ‘infractions’). It also alerts you to adverbs, passive voice and needlessly complicated words. The web site is free to use or you can pay $10 for the desktop app
How to get focused, get organized and get writing — online
Think of this tool as your editor-in-chief. Not only will it scan for long-winded sentences, it looks for clichés, boring ‘corporate-speak’ and overused words. Pay for a membership and you’ll get more, including the plagiarism checker that searches billions of publications and web pages for accidental appropriation of someone else’s work. Sign up for $0-$40.
- Cliché Finder
Eradicate clichés in your writing with a single click. A bare-bones, easy-to-use, free tool that identifies clichés by highlighting them in red so you can avoid the dreaded things.
If your word processing program lacks some of the tools you really need, this is a robust program for people who work with multiple files, research documents and spend lots of time on creating content. You can open all your project files in a separate pane while you work. A ‘rough draft’ window keep track of your edits and notes while preview pane lets you see your actual draft in progress. Fair warning: you’ll need to spend some time learning the program to fully utilize its power. But you can check out the free trial before you shell out the $45 purchase price.
2. Get the Grammar Right
Never use bad grammar — unless you mean to. Before you can break the rules, you have to understand them. Use these resources to check yourself.
More robust than your word processor’s grammar checker, it can find and correct a lot of errors you might miss. You can even add it as a free plug-in to Chrome and other web browsers. It also teaches you about your mistakes so you won’t make them again.
Along with grammar mistakes, this site helps with sentence variety, run-ons, passive voice, wordiness and other ‘grammar traps’.
Beyond the average grammar checker, this site checks for spelling and gives style suggestions. It’s free and fast and there’s no registration required.
3. Cite Your Sources
Citations give your work credibility and help readers dig deeper on your topic. It’s best to use them when doing any kind of research project, non-fiction project, etc.
Creating bibliographies and works cited pages take a lot of time. Choose a standard (Chicago style, MLA, APA, etc.) and it will automatically generate your page with media that ranges from films to books and websites to newspapers.
4. Transcribe In Record Time
Sometimes you get your material in video or sound files. And transcribing takes a lot of time. Here’s a tool to speed things up.
Have a bunch of interviews, memos or the audio you need to transcribe? Just add a sound file (WAV or MP3) or YouTube video and start playing. Since all of the controls are included inside the app, you don’t have to keep switching windows between sound files and word processing apps.
5. Do Your Research
Knowledge of the topic is a writer’s best friend. Use these tools to find, clip and save source materials.
- Skitch and Evernote Web Clippers
Grab and annotate screenshots in a snap with either of these tools. Download Skitch for Apple or use the clipper in the Chrome browser. They’re basically the same, but Skitch has a few more bells and whistles.
One of the best personal notebooks you can get, hands down. You can make notes, save articles and links, set reminders and even write your own content with the text editor. It works on almost any device and you can upgrade your membership to get offline access to your notes, turn your notes into presentations and more. Free to $49.99 per year.
- Google Docs Research Tool
Even if you already work in Google Docs, you might not know that they have a cool tool that can save tons of time. Go to Tools and then Research to bring up a panel that lets you search any section of Google, view the results and add the link to your content. Free.
6. Get Efficient
Procrastination and distractions are the writer’s worst enemies. Take charge of your day and write better and faster.
- Tomato Timer
Using the Pomodoro technique, this tool helps structure a writer’s sometimes unstructured days. It works on a timer system where you work for X minutes and then break for X minutes. After you complete 4 work periods (Pomodoros), you take a longer break and then repeat the process. But nothing is set in stone — you’re in full control of the timer. It’s free. Just accept the notifications and you’re on your way to more efficient use of your time.
7. Write Irresistible (aka KILLER) Headlines
Headlines are what grab the reader and ‘drag’ them in. Write the best headlines on the web with one or more of these tools.
Use these online tools to take your writing to rockstar heights
- Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) Headline Analyzer
Analyze headlines based on their emotional content and find out their EMV score (expressed in a percentage). A headline with a high EMV is particularly important if your content contains a call to action. Free.
- ContentIdeator Headline Generator
This site helps you get headline ideas to analyze with the other two tools. Unlike a lot of content or title generators, this one creates more relevant and specific headlines. But the downside is that you might see a lot of the same ones used over and over. Best to use this one for ideas rather than verbatim titles. Free or upgrade to premium (about $1 per day).
- CoSchedule Headline Analyzer Aimed mostly at bloggers, this is great tool for finding out if your headline will grab people, how it will look in search engines and gives you overall ‘scores’ based on types of words you use (common & uncommon, emotional, power). It’s free and easy to use.
8. Get in the Write Zone
Get your head in the game and your writing in ‘the zone’ with these clean, sleek and useful tools for writers, teachers and editors.
- Calmly Writer
Don’t like distractions? This site is pure simplicity and the clean white page gives you a distraction free writing experience reminiscent of the old typewriter. But there are word processing tools, too. Just click to bring them up. App available for Chrome. Free.
- Focus Writer
Another distraction free environment, the coolest thing about this tool is the hide-away interface. Just move the mouse to the edge of your screen to bring back the editor. It’s available in more than 20 languages for Linux, Windows and Mac. Free.
- My Writing Spot
Another sleek and simple tool, this one packs in a little more punch. It has a word counter, built-in dictionary and thesaurus and — most importantly — autosave! Document groups make it easy to organize and collaborate. It’s available online or get the app for Android and iOS devices. Free.
- Write Space
A very handy Chrome plug-in that puts a text editor inside your web browser. It’s free and has a whole host of customizable options, including display, editing, spell checking and more. Free.
Write public or private notes and content and save it online for easy access. Features a distraction free mode, an editor view and a note manager. You can also post notes and content by text or email. Mobile app for iOS and Android. Free.
More of a mind mapping tool than a writing tool, it helps organize thoughts and plots, plan out your ideas and create dazzling presentations for your editor (or yourself.) Fun and free.
I’ll leave you with a quote from another famous writer Richard Bach: “A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.”
What’s the difference between an amateur writer and a professional? Hint: it’s not money
So never quit writing.
And never quit striving to make your writing better.