Wouldn’t it be great if there were a software program that took your writing and spat out new copy that was Pulitzer worthy? Sadly, such a program doesn’t exist. However, there are tools and apps out there that can make you a smarter writer – and possibly a better one. The emphasis is on smarter though, because you have to know what some of these programs are telling you in order to decide if their feedback and suggestions are worth the effort. As with all marketing efforts, it’s all about context and the message you’re trying to get across.
Happily, there are online apps and tools that are quite sophisticated, and can show you areas where you can improve your output. What apps and tools are these? Read on!
You might be scratching your head about why Grammarly is included in this list. Don’t we all have spelling and grammar checking in our writing software? Yes, but can your spellchecker distinguish between the use of “you” and “your” and suggest that you might need to use one of those pronouns instead of the other?
Grammarly catches the kinds of errors that regular spelling and grammar checkers miss. That’s crucial if you’re a professional who uses writing to reach clients. So what’s the downside? Grammarly is not compatible with Google Docs (which means you’ll have to cut and paste and dump your content into the app). However if you are an MS Word person, you can download Grammarly directly into Microsoft Word and use it as your new spell check program within the application.
If you’re writing to a general level audience, simplicity is crucial. That’s why it’s always good to run your words through a reading level comprehension program such as Readable.io. It’ll tell you what grade level your sentences and paragraphs are scoring at — anything between a Grade 6 and Grade 8 reading level is ideal for a general audience. This can help you prune down some of your longer sentences and choose words that are simpler to understand without dumbing down your work.
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The drawback is that a lot of these online reading level calculators don’t know what to do with bulleted lists, so you may be forced to use a hack such as putting a period at the end of each bullet point manually to get an accurate score.
OneLook Reverse Dictionary
Are you struggling to come up with a word, knowing only what defines it? You could try OneLook Reverse Dictionary, a free tool that allows you to look up words based on their definitions. This tool really helps if you only “sort of” know the word you’re looking for. If you enter something vague such as “something you eat”, you’ll get all kinds of synonyms for eating that may or may not be helpful. Still, if you find yourself grasping at straws for coming up with the right word, this may be a useful tool.
This one is almost self-explanatory. If you do any writing online, chances are you need an editor. Google Docs allows you to collaborate with others on your Hemingway-esque pieces. It’s also constantly backs things up, so you don’t have to worry about hitting the “Save” button every minute or so.
If you’re doing any business writing, you need a blog. WordPress is a good choice as it powers about 20 percent of the Internet. Having a blog is a good practice to have regardless, because it’ll give you the platform to keep writing. And the more you write, the better you’ll get. So a blog is a good tool to have in your arsenal.
Are there any other good (and preferably free) tools and apps out there that you use? What are they? Feel free to share them in the comments section below.