And how to use them like a pro.
Let’s be honest. Writing is tough.
It doesn’t matter if you write for a living, produce academic papers or put together the next social club newsletter.
Wherever your words are needed, they need to be easy to read and error-free.
This may seem daunting to many, but thankfully, there are some fantastic (free) writing tools out there to help.
There’s more than just ‘spell-check’ now?
With the rapid advances in writing software, you’d be forgiven if a basic spell checker is still your go-to writing tool.
In 2019 though, there are far more sophisticated options now that check for things like:
- How easy your sentences are to read
- The tone of your writing
- Complex grammar rules
- Repetitive words
- And much more…
So, what are these tools that’ll get you writing like a pro?
Let’s find out.
1. Get your ideas out with the right word processor
There are many word processors available at your fingertips, however, the two best options, in my opinion, are MS Word and the newer, web-based Google Docs.
(yes, technically Word isn’t free, I know. But most of us have it or have access to it, so I’m counting it)
What’s important though is that you find a word processor you feel comfortable working with so you can pump out your writing ideas.
If you’re an academic writer – LYX might be more what you’re looking for (and it’s free). It is a bit of a learning curve, however, it’s stable for larger documents containing many images and figures.
And because the formatting’s fixed for each inbuilt report style, you’re free to focus on the structure and content.
2. Find the word you’re looking for with Word Hippo.
Is the word you’re looking for often on the tip of your tongue? Or, you can’t stop using the same words over and over again?
I do. If I’m being honest, finding new and powerful words is often the bane of a writer’s existence.
Thankfully, Word Hippo can help.
It’s a nifty online thesaurus and word tool for your creative writing needs. And, a saviour when you need to add some flair and impact to your writing.
3. Get clear, concise and to the point with the Hemingway app
An online app helping you to write easy to read sentences that have more impact.
Simply cut and paste your text into the Heming way app and it’ll suggest edits to make your sentences crisper by avoiding passive voice, adverbs, and highlighting simpler alternatives to phrases.
It also highlights sentences that are hard and very hard to read. Which, when re-examined, often end up with another full stop, some rewording or deletion of unnecessary information.
Sometimes all three.
4. Read the text out loud
A time-tested trick of proof-readers is reading the text aloud. This works so well because you hear the mistakes your brain has been auto-correcting while reading.
It also helps your writing sound more natural and to find where breaks in long sentences are needed.
MS Word has the Read Aloud function already built-in. For Google Docs, you can install an add-on called Speakd (download it from G Suite marketplace).
5. Get your grammar sorted with Grammarly
My go-to for in-depth spelling and grammar checking.
Grammarly is by far one of the best apps for picking up grammar errors and offering suggestions because it looks for things like:
- Confused prepositions
- Writing style
- Overuse of the passive voice
- Wordy sentences
- Repetitive words
- Common writing and grammar mistakes like misplaced apostrophes
- Spelling errors
- Lengthy sentences to edit down
- Any other grammar rules that I may have overlooked
It also integrates with many web browsers, meaning it can check things like your Facebook messages and emails as you type too.
Yes, there is a paid version, but the free version is good enough for me. I’m sure you’ll find it does what you need it to as well.
How to use these fancy new tools
My usual process looks something like this:
- I start in either MS Word or Google Docs and just write without worrying too much about how it sounds.
- When I get stuck for a word, it’s time for Word Hippo.
- Once I’ve got a good basis and feeling happy, I’ll start refining my writing with Hemmingway.
- Next, I’ll listen for errors and strange-sounding sentences using the read-aloud feature.
- Finally, I’ll do a check with Grammarly. Make sure to review its suggestions and check they make sense. Remember it’s just a tool. It’s very good. But not perfect.
Depending on what I’m writing, this could be for a whole document or a single section. Sometimes, I skip steps altogether.
It depends on what I need to do to achieve my particular goals at the time.
What’s important though is that you’re doing your main writing in a word processor, like Google Docs or MS Word.
The continual suggestions and proposed changes from Grammarly or the Hemingway app will stifle your creativity and productivity as you write. Save this important feedback for the editing and checking phases of your project.
Tools are great but know their limits
While these tools make it easier to produce great writing, you should never rely on them 100%.
Always review their suggestions and do a common-sense check to see if what they say makes sense for what you want your writing to achieve.
And finally, pick your content wisely.
Because the best writing isn’t only easy to read and understand. It’s interesting and helpful too.
And if you think your writing’s still missing that little extra something but you can’t quite put a finger on it, let’s chat and see if I can help.
Over to you
Do have any fantastic free writing tools you want to share? Comment below.
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Written by Josh Rose.
SEO copywriter. Word lover. Addicted to travel.