I used to be hesitant to call myself a writer. Writer felt like a title reserved for those creating masterful pieces of fiction; an inscription for people with beautiful notebooks and fountain pens, sipping a pumpkin spice latte on the window ledge of a downtown Starbucks. Or at least held for those that crafted tight pieces of content that could be slowly unravelled to reveal a secret, like Seth Godin. This doesn't seem to be a sentiment suffered by accountants, lawyers, doctors, biologists, politician, teachers—just because someone isn't Obama doesn't mean they aren't a politician.
In a Ted Talk entitled Your Elusive Creative Genius, Elizabeth Gilbert touches on some of the problems with the way we talk about creatives, especially writers. Has anyone ever encountered a dose of accountant's block? Not a common complaint, anyway.
Being a writer (of any kind), though, is not about patiently waiting to be struck with inspiration. It's about sitting down with your pen and paper or your sticky keyboard and dusty monitor, and turning the blank page into something useful. Aside from yourself and the other necessities, writing takes tools. There are plenty of writing tools to make your job easier. Here is a list of some of the writing tools we use that make the life of a writer more productive than painful.
17 Free Writing Tools
If you’re like our marketing team, you’re really funny. And more relevantly, you use Google Drive for everything. It’s convenient, agile and multiple people can be working on the same document, spreadsheet or form at the same time. If you’re like everyone on that world wide web, doing research for your blog or piece of content can become a major distraction. In Google Docs, you can go into the Tools drop down menu and select Research, you’ll open a small sidebar within your document. Now you can source a quick stat without getting lost in the tunnel of cat memes, Hotline Bling dances and your aunt’s ridiculous Facebook stream.
With writing comes reading. Always. It’s frustrating to stumble upon a great article when you don't have time to read it and try to save the link somewhere. Reading List is a simple Chrome extension that allows you to bookmark articles for reading later, on the off chance you get a few minutes of down time.
Our dear friend Ernest uses short sentences, short paragraphs and never a negative when a positive will do. While we can’t all be blessed with a broody temperament, cunning intelligence and a witty pencil, writers can use the Hemingway App. The App identifies long words that can be replaced with shorter ones, long sentences and pesky adjectives. Grammarly offers a lot of the same functionality under a less appealing name 😉
Grammark is a writing tool that helps to identify academic style, passive voice, wordiness, nominalizations, transitions, sentence variety, run-on sentences and other frowned upon styles. Watch out, ego.
A huge factor in driving leads through our content marketing is blogging. And you can’t have a blog without a headline. Your headline determines if people are going to dive deeper or head off into the abyss—about 80% of people never read past the headline (Copyblogger). Your headline is to your blog what your subject line is to your emails—make it count to get your readers in the game. With Coschedule’s headline analyzer tool, you type in your headline for a quick analysis and rating. They rate you on originality, type of post and the ability to evoke an emotion. As an automated machine, it may miss some details, but it’s a great place to start with your headline to get you thinking. Well, you should have been thinking before, but you know, we don’t live in a perfect world.
You know how universities charge exorbitant amounts of money for textbooks and access to journals? Google scholar is kind of like a university library minus the tuition and loitering sophomores. Scholar provides a way to search for academic literature across disciplines and sources. It limits your search to articles, theses, books, abstracts, court opinions, professional societies, universities and other trusted resources.
Google Alerts are easy to use and a quick way to make sure you don’t miss mentions of your business (or competitor’s business). You can have information about any keyword emailed to you. Type in your name, business name or any keyword you want to monitor and set the frequency of your alerts.
After the Deadline uses artificial intelligence to check spelling, style and grammar wherever you are on the web. Because the world of digital and social media has an immediacy to is, there is not always time to double check the grammar in your tweets by first pasting into a document. Click the ABC icon in the lower-right corner of an editable area to proofread your writing with the Chrome extension.
We've all got words we over use or maybe even abuse. Copy and paste your text into Wordcounter to see what words you use the most. You can exclude small words, like if, the or and, and see groupings of words. Though there are better tools for identifying keywords, Wordcounter can help with this, too.
For your real SEO checking writing tool, I recommend Yoast. If you have a WordPress blog, it's an awesome, easy way to better optimize your content. Yoast notifies you when you have a green light to post, and offers a simple checklist of items you can adjust to help your blog perform better. It offers tips like changing the URL, updating metadata, automatically checking keyword density and more. There is also an option to add images the correct size for Facebook and Twitter to your blog so that when it is shared on social, the images look properly proportioned.
WordClouds generates a word cloud from text you provide, which I’m sure, as an astute professional, you were able to guess from its name. These can be useful to add as a blog image, to use on social or just to analyze what is said more about your company in online reviews. You can also paste in the content of other blogs and see what keywords surface. You can change the shape, text colors, add a mask, font, size, etc. I made this one from a blog we wrote about dominating Google’s Snack Pack, and used Google’s android logo as the shape, though heavily debated using the microphone.
To write is to read, and to read is to eat (knowledge). So feed your brain with content that makes sense with what you have to write. Feedly is a great way to aggregate news from various industries. It compiles news feeds from a variety of online sources for you to customize and share based on categories and your interests. Feedly can be used as a web browser or downloaded as an app.
It's one thing to say you need to hunker down and write, but if you're generating your own copy ideas, sometimes the old gray matter can get stalled. I check Google Trends to get inspiration for new content ideas and see what others are finding interesting right now. Not only is Trends a good writing tool, but you can use it to gauge how in tune you are with the rest of the country by guessing what is being searched. Big sports events = unfair advantage. Think with Google is another cool writing tool that talks about micro moments, consumer trends and compiles other compelling data.
No one means to copy and paste, of course. But occasionally, content creators may copy something with the intent to rework the content, and forget to do so. Editors can paste the text into plagiarism checker and get a quick analysis to see if any phrases exist in that context on the internet, as well as get a link to where the phrase was found.
Readability allows you to disable webpage clutter and read an article in a more comfortable reading format. You can also save the reading for later, send it to your Kindle, tag/sort your list, share through social sites and sync your list to your Kindle. The image shows a before and after comparison.
The biblical figure that rises from the dead is a good namesake for this app that auto saves everything you type. This way, when you’re painstakingly inputting looooong blogs, you can quickly recover your work from timeouts, a lost internet connection and any other crashes.
Though we're all committed to being lifelong students, sometimes the jargon can get ahead of our own learning curve. And marketers? We're the worst, always creating words. We send out a Smarketing newsletter, deliver our partners a Product Insider and maintain a predictable revenue spreadsheet. If you're a writer in the ever fluctuating tech or marketing industry, we built these two resources for you.
If you're one of those writers that isn't put off by a blinker on a blank white screen, then Calmly is for you. It is a distraction free writing space that hides even the menu bar.
Other Free Tools
To write is to read, and with all the choices of content you have, thanks for reading the Vendasta blog. I've also compiled a few other free tool blogs to help you in your marketing journey:
- 10 Free Twitter Tools
- 37 Free Design Tools to Make the Online World a Little More Beautiful
- The 30 Best Free Stock Photo Sites
Let me know what writing tools I missed in the comments below. Or if you're shy, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hearing from readers (and writers) makes my day exciting. You can also download our fresh new ebook 101 Free Tools for Digital Marketers to really dig in.