Typing words onto a screen is easy.
Typing words into coherent sentences that accurately convey your intended meaning? Well, that can be tough.
In this fabulous day and age of the internet there are some great tools to help you hone your writing chops. I’ve collected five of my favorites to help you with everything from grammar and clarity to making time to practice your writing.
Have a favorite that’s not on this list? Add it to the comments below!
Know your grammar: Grammar Girl
Follow Mignon Fogarty, AKA Grammar Girl, at QuickandDirtyTips.com for daily answers to your grammar questions. She uses humor, cartoons, and clever mnemonic devices to explain the difference between “affect” and “effect,” when italics are more appropriate than quotation marks, and whether or not you should start sentences with a preposition.
She sends out a regular newsletter, and her Twitter feed is worth a follow, too, if you like your grammar lessons in under 140 characters.
Check your grammar: Grammarly
Grammarly bills itself as “the world’s most accurate grammar checker,” and seems to be a fantastic alternative to the often-infuriating grammar checker that comes built in to most word processing programs. It spellchecks contextually, helping you spot homophones like there/their/they’re, and it also suggests synonyms when it catches you repeating words.
It’s free, and works as a web browser add-on when you’re writing emails and blog posts, as well as having a full-feature web word processor option.
Write more clearly: Hemingway Editor
The Hemingway Editor is a web-based app that encourages clearer writing by automatically highlighting complex phrases, adverbs, lengthy sentences, and other obfuscations of clarity. (Full disclosure: it definitely highlighted the preceding sentence as “very hard to read”.) You can write within the app – it has basic formatting tools – or copy and paste text you’d like to edit.
Along with highlighting problem sentences, the app also assigns your text a grade level. Fifth or sixth grade level is (sadly) what’s recommended for most online copy. This section is apparently eleventh grade level, which seems entirely appropriate for GovLoops audience!
The app is free, but there’s also a desktop version you can buy for $6.99 if you want to use it offline.
Write daily: 750 Words
750 Words is a site designed to get you into the daily writing habit. It’s based on the concept of freewriting three pages (about 750 words) each morning in order to clear your mind at free up your subconscious – which is a great tool for working out ideas or getting unstuck creatively.
The way the site works is that you log in, type away, and at the end of each session you’re given stats and charts that analyze the types of words you’ve used and the corresponding moods. It also provides you with a minute-by-minute account of how many words you wrote, which can give insight into how often you got distracted during the process.
As you go along, you earn points and badges for consecutive days. The interface is clean and distraction-free, and your writing is always kept private.
Write without distraction: Freedom App
Connecting the internet to your primary writing device is like deciding to go on a diet and then moving into a cupcake shop. Unless your willpower is made of steel, it’s impossible to avoid the temptation of checking social media or emails. This kills your workflow!
If you didn’t preorder a Hemingwrite on Kickstarter, your next best bet is to check out Freedom, an app that simply turns off your internet connection for a set amount of time. Although it seems like I could just be a responsible adult and turn off my own internet connection, there’s something very focusing about using Freedom. Pushing that button means I’m rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.
There’s a free trial period, after which the app is $10 – and it’s been the best $10 I’ve spent in a while.