One of the benefits of being a technophile is that over the course of my travels through the expansive world wide web, I come across a variety of resources that will benefit not only me, but fellow writers. (Bloggers, YES THIS MEANS YOU, TOO!) All of us have to write at some point or another, whether it’s a short story we’re submitting to an anthology or a notice to a landlord that you will be vacating a property on a certain date. Written communication is of the utmost importance, and in many instances it can convey messages or meanings which are not intended simply due to missing words, absent clauses, or typos. I will defer to my favorite argument for the Oxford comma:
Due to the fact that not all of us are grammar experts, I’ve compiled a list of helpful free writing tools for writers of all stripes. Whether you struggle with grammar, passive voice, utilizing cliches, getting started, thinking of a clever headline, or all of the above – I have resources which will help you! The list officially states there are five, but I hope you will appreciate the bonuses I’ve thrown in along the way. Please enjoy the top 5 free writing tools I’ve located just for you! (…and me.)
1. Edit Minion – http://editminion.com/
If you only have time to use one of these tools, I would suggest you utilize Edit Minion. It combines the utilities of the Hemingway Editor, Cliche Finder and After the Deadline, three of the items which will follow on this list. One should tread carefully when utilizing this tool, however. The interface is a bit cumbersome and it can be difficult to sort out what exactly it is that you are looking at or looking for. As they say, with
great power comes great responsibility, so writers are encouraged to play with this one when they have time on their hands so that they can become more familiar with the interface as well as the variety of options provided.
2. Grammarly – https://www.grammarly.com/ or After The Deadline – http://www.polishmywriting.com/
Grammarly is one of the most widely recommended grammar tools available today thanks to their free chrome extension. While this extension does not catch every error (and sometimes catches errors which aren’t there) it is still a useful resource. If you are not well versed in the English language or appreciate having a double check before you hit “submit”, Grammarly is an excellent choice. There is a paid version, but the basic version will catch many standard mistakes on its own without much trouble.After The Deadline is an alternative to Grammarly which some like better based on the simpler interface and the lack of repeated encouragement to buy something from the creators. The web-based application provides spelling, grammar, and stylistic suggestions which are all designed to improve your writing.If you aren’t sure which to try out or which you would like best, my method is to install the Grammarly Chrome extension, and then after writing something using the Grammarly extension I check it in After The Deadline. It might seem excessive, but if I can edit my writing as I type (thanks to Grammarly) I reduce the number of changes I need to make in my secondary revisions (with ATD). It works for me. Find what works for you!
3. Hemingway Editor – http://www.hemingwayapp.com/
The Hemingway App is designed to improve clarity in your writing. It highlights long, complex sentences so you know to shorten them or rewrite them. (You will know which to do based on the color of the highlight.) This app also draws attention to passive voice, complicated word choice, and adverbs. I personally prefer a Hemingwayesque style of writing as opposed to that of Faulkner, so this tool is one of my personal favorites.
4. Cliche Finder – http://cliche.theinfo.org/
The Cliche Finder does exactly what you would imagine. It analyzes your writing for any uses of cliche terms or turns of phrase. As stated above, Edit Minion does have the capability to look for cliches, but Cliche Finder has a much simpler design which makes it an obvious choice for less tech savvy and/or more timestrapped writers and bloggers.
5. Write or Die – http://writeordie.com/
Write or Die is a product created by the makers of Edit Minion and is designed for those times when writers block is threatening to keep you from meeting your deadlines, whether they are self-imposed or client-driven. With Write or Die you plug in the amount of time you wish to write, how forgiving you wish the timer to be, and then start the clock. If you stop typing during that period of time the screen will gradually change color and then obnoxious sounds will go off, reminding you to get back to work! If you struggle with productivity on days that you “aren’t feeling it” I would encourage you to try Write or Die the next time you have a project to complete. It’s a somewhat silly tool that can be cheated, but it succeeds at keeping you focused on the task at hand, even if you’re just working the system.
6. *BONUS RESOURCE* Blog Post Headline Analyzer – http://coschedule.com/headline-analyzer
For my blogging readers I wanted to provide this amazing resource for determining clever titles which is offered by our friends at CoSchedule. Often, the number of shares we receive on social media, the clicks we get on our Newsletters, and the number of sign ups we receive for our newsletters is determined by what we decide to name our blog articles. Often, the most difficult part of writing a blog post for me is not creating the content, but figuring out what to call it! If you struggle with this as well, you can plug in your title ideas to the Blog Post Headline Analyzer and receive immediate feedback as to whether or not your proposed headline is SEO friendly
Is there some part of writing that you need help with that one of these tools can’t fix? Sound off in the comments! I might have a solution up my sleeve to share with you. (If not, I may be able to track one down!) – If you find that any of these tools helps you, let me know and give this post a share on social media to help out your writing friends!