“A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” – Thomas Mann.
Agreed – writing is tough work, even for seasoned writers like me who have spent their entire career stringing words together for a living.
Tools help, and there are some simple ones I use that are quite useful. Some are new, some are old school, but they all help me improve my writing. Here is a list of my top five favorites and some bonus ones at the bottom of the article that I would like to share. Take a look:
My two main writing offenses are incorrect comma usage and writing sentences that are much too wordy. Thankfully, Grammarly saves me from myself.
When I first started using Grammarly, I began with the free version. It was a great help when it came to checking my spelling and grammar.
Later, I graduated to the paid premium version, which also tells me whether my writing is clear and engaging, whether my delivery is on point, and how I can rephrase my long sentences to make them easier to read. It also points out when I am using unnecessary phrases, like in this example:
A plagiarism checker helps me ensure I am writing unique content, which is especially important when I am writing for my freelance clients.
I have absolutely fallen in love with the premium version and use it for everything from full-length articles to short email messages. Grammarly’s Chrome plug-in makes checking my work super easy.
2. Headline Analyzer
I have never been an ace at writing headlines. Once in a while, I will hit gold, but the struggle is quite real most of the time. Writing clever, punchy headlines that grab people’s attention is not in my repertoire.
One of my most difficult college classes was actually a headline writing class that was part of my journalism curriculum. I thought the class was going to be a piece of cake. After all, I was writing papers up to 20 pages long for my English literature classes. How hard could it be to write a few headlines?
I quickly learned that it was much harder than I thought. I actually struggled quite a bit in that class. And although I would later become a journalist where headline writing was an everyday affair, I never quite got the hang of it.
It has been a pain point of mine forever and a day but this free Headline Analyzer really helps.
You enter your headline, hit the Analyze button, and you will be provided with a score for readability, SEO, and sentiment. Each score is clearly explained (you scroll down to get the details), so you can make adjustments until you are happy with your headline’s score.
Also, on the same website, if you are interested, is a tool that helps you correctly capitalize a title in APA, Chicago, AP, or MLA styles. That, in itself, can also be extremely useful.
My journalism days are long past me, and I now work in marketing, where the words I write have a different purpose. My goal these days is less about informing and more about convincing people to buy products.
Adjectives are my friend, but finding new ways to describe the same products can be challenging. That is why I love AdjectivesStarting.com, a lookup tool that helps you find adjectives that start with a particular letter of the alphabet. For example, you can search for adjectives that start with the letter ‘s’ and get a long list of results.
Years ago, I owned a hardback dictionary, and I loved to flip through the pages looking up words. I think it was more about how the paper felt on my fingers than anything else — there is just something about how thin dictionary paper feels to the touch that is so satisfying.
I do not own a physical dictionary anymore, but I still use one every day, only online. My dictionary of choice is Merriam-Webster. I use their website strictly for looking up the meaning and usage of words that I am unclear on. But there are many other features there like Word of the Day, Games & Quizzes, and a real-time feed of the website’s Top Lookups that I have yet to explore.
5. Power Thesaurus
The Merriam-Webster website includes both a dictionary and thesaurus, but I have taken a liking to Power Thesaurus.
The crowdsourced tool is straightforward to use and includes synonyms, antonyms, definitions, and examples, among other features.
BONUS: A Few More Tools I Love
- RhymeZone.com — for when you want to be clever. It helps you find words that rhyme.
- Rocketbook — reusable notebooks. I own two of these (one for home and one for work), and I am a HUGE fan. They are fantastic.
- EasyWordCount.com — a great tool to get a quick word count.
“It’s none of their business that you have to learn to write. Let them think you were born that way.”— Ernest Hemingway