Raise your hands up if you miss the golden days of typewriters and foolscap sheets. No one? Okay then. Chances are some of you weren’t even born during the heyday of the typewriter anyway.
Now, we have computers. We have online phones and tons of online tools and applications that will make your writing life easier and better. Becoming a better writer is, of course, the name of the game. What you wouldn’t give for a tool or set of tools that enable you to communicate better, write faster, cut out the errors, and churn out engaging content.
Writing goes beyond just opening a word processor and typing away. Now, with more competition out there — whether you’re in the literary, advertising or tech field, or even if you’re just writing for pleasure — the right selection of tools will give you an edge that may just net you more readers or a bigger paycheck.
Unfortunately, when it comes to digital aids, the writing community is spoilt for choice. More may be merrier, but it is easy to develop a headache just trying to pick from the zillions of tools that promise to take your writing to the next level.
Lucky you — this is where we come in. We decided to go to bat for you by testing out dozens of the most popular tools for writing. We checked out plenty of them – from those that help you brainstorm and note down random ideas to those that help you remove errors and make your writing acceptable and engaging.
Do you want to make your writing completely error-free? Are you looking for catchy headlines to draw readers your way? Do you want an idea of how readable that article you spent hours on actually is? Are you looking for an easy way to connect all your ideas together? Do you want to make sure your content is actually 100% original? If your answer to all, some or one of these questions is yes, read on. There is at least one tool you will want to have.
Five Things That Bind Them All…
Very bad Lord of the Rings allusions aside, there are some qualities that the best writing tools have to possess irrespective of which aspect of the writing process each one addresses. Whether you’re talking about a note-taking app or a tool that spots and corrects spelling errors, they must all have certain things in common.
Based on our research, we have selected five of the best online tools for writers because they meet these conditions:
- Reachable: Ideas wait for nobody. They need to be noted down as quickly as possible before they escape the mind, presumably in search of a better-prepared writer. Being a better-prepared writer helps immensely. And tools that you can access on the go and from anywhere will make a huge difference in your writing life.
- Different: Wait, let us explain. Surely, you wouldn’t want to end up with ten tools most of which do the same thing or have broadly overlapping functions. Having different tools, each one helping you to master a different aspect of the writing process, is just what the doctor ordered.
- Affordable. Unless you’ve already made it big in the creative sphere or received a humongous sum in grants or endorsement, you have to cut your coat according to your size. The selected tools either come free or come cheap while still giving you access to amazing features you might not find elsewhere.
- Easy to use. Grab a pen and paper and you’re ready to write. Writing aids should be equally easy to use. Programs with a complicated interface or steep learning curves can end up discouraging writers. The ones we have selected have clean, pleasing UIs that make using them a breeze.
Onwards, then, to our selection of the top 5 online tools for writers.
Grammarly — The Ultimate Proofreading Tool
“Expression is the dress of thought,” bellowed one English poet several centuries ago, and it certainly helps to have the right dress for every occasion. Imagine turning up to prom night in a nightgown — the horror!
Grammarly helps you to express yourself in exactly the appropriate way for each occasion. Whether you’re firing off a quick email to that demanding boss or turning in your academic project after a sleepless night, the Grammarly spell checker goes over everything to make sure you’ve crossed all the t’s and dotted all the i’s.
No matter how good you are, you’re not immune to spelling and grammar mistakes. Grammarly doesn’t only correct your “color” to “colour” if you’ve chosen British English, but it also adds missing words for you and removes unnecessary ones as well. Whether you struggle with tenses, wordiness or sentence structure, Grammarly has got your back. It will even offer suggestions to use a synonym if it better fits the context.
What sets this tool apart from other text correction tools (such as the Grammar & Spelling feature in MS Word) is its contextual awareness. You can flip between academic, business and casual settings to adjust the level of correctional leeway. So, you can expect tighter editing when you’re writing a formal correspondence but not so much when chatting with friends on Facebook or Twitter.
You can start using Grammarly right away with a free account and proofread your writing from any platform. There are desktop apps for Windows and macOS, keyboards for iOS and Android, browser extensions for the likes of Chrome and Firefox, and even a Grammarly add-on for Microsoft Word.
Subscription model: You can test out the basic features of Grammarly for free or subscribe to any of the premium plans (starting at $11.66/month) to unlock advanced features like plagiarism detection and contextual editing.
Scapple — The Ultimate Brainstorming Tool
Let’s go back to our old poet and his quip about expression being the dress of thought. Obviously, if you can connect those disparate thoughts together into a stream of ideas, expression will come much easier and faster.
A decade ago, this would mean scribbling your thoughts on multiple notepads, which would end up scattered all over the floor. This no longer has to be the case, thanks to tools like Scapple that give you a way to jot your thoughts digitally and connect them together in a way that makes sense to you. With Scapple, it becomes easier to figure out how to organize your ideas into a coherent project.
What you do with your ideas is all up to you. Scapple is a blank canvas. You put your thoughts down and use connecting arrows to establish visual relationships. You can write anywhere you want in the window and link one idea to any other idea. You can form hubs of ideas, which then connect to other hubs, forming the skeleton of a novel, a project, a business plan or whatever else you’re trying to create.
To link a thought, simply drag and drop it next to another or double-click to edit. You can change the shape of the thought bubbles and use different colours to distinguish different aspects of the same idea.
For creative thinkers and those whose livelihood depends on constant, consistent idea generation, Scapple is a godsend. You can scribble on the go and associate your ideas together at your convenience.
Scapple is available for Windows and macOS computers.
Subscription model: You can test out Scapple for free for 30 active days. This means that only the days that you actually sign into the account are counted. After that, you can purchase a lifetime license for $18.
Readable — The Ultimate Tool for Gauging Audience Interest
Imagine showing off your painstaking writing to your boss, only to get the papers flung back in your face because, according to him, what you wrote would read like gobbledygook to the target audience.
Painful, huh? Fortunately, you can measure the readability of your work before you click that Publish button. Thanks to Readable, you can know which kind of people are likely to find your writing appealing. If they aren’t the people you’re writing for, you can then change things like your diction and sentence structure to either simplify or formalize things for the benefit of your target audience.
You can check out the readability scores of a bunch of text, a Word, PDF or ebook file, email, or even a complete website and get a comprehensive readability report. The tool allows you to choose a specific algorithm — such as the Flesch-Kincaid or Gunning-Fog — to score audience engagement or use the preset settings.
Subscription model: You can test out the premium features of Readable with a 7-day free trial. The personal subscription starts at $4/month.
Small SEO Tools — The Ultimate SEO Toolkit
Small SEO Tools is the ultimate Swiss Army Knife for search engine optimization. Content writers are always looking for original ways to express ideas that might no longer be all that novel as this can be the difference between a piece of content that registers at the top of Google search results and one that wallows on the 123rd search page.
Small SEO Tools gathers together tools that help content writers and managers optimize their writing to make it easily accessible to readers while achieving the objectives of the website or organization. Small SEO Tools helps you maximize keyword visibility and content originality, making it likelier that readers will be attracted to click that all-important link.
The Plagiarism Checker feature keeps you on your toes, ensuring you only churn out fresh and authentic content. The Article Rewriter suggest words and phrases to enrich portions of your writing. The Grammar Check, Word Counter, and Spell Checker do exactly what their names imply, while the Word Combiner can generate new keyword combinations. You can even convert simple images to text and vice versa.
The best part? These features are just the tip of the iceberg. Apart from the tools above that optimize text content, there are also image editing, keyword, backlink, website management, proxy, domain website tracking, and password management tools. Small SEO Tools is absolutely stacked.
The second best part? It’s absolutely free!
Subscription model: 100% free to use.
Coschedule Headline Analyzer — The Ultimate Tool for Crafting Better Headlines
You can have the best ideas, craft the best sentences, crack the best jokes, and deliver the greatest punchlines ever written. Your painstaking effort can end up being undermined by a crappy headline. With Headline Analyzer, one of the tools from the stable of Coschedule, you can find out if the headline you’ve chosen will attract or repel readers.
Using Coschedule Headline Analyzer is easy as ABC. Simply type your headline into the box and click the Analyze Now button. The tool will go to work and return a result. Constant use will train you to write the best headlines that have just the right mix of emotional pull and magnetic power.
Keep using Coschedule Headline Analyzer until you score as close to 100% as you can. The higher your score, the higher the chances that readers will stick around for the content after viewing your headline.
Subscription model: Free to use, but you have to fill a form to get the results.
At the end of the day, nobody knows more than you just what you need at your current level in the writing industry. Perhaps you’re struggling with grammar and other structural elements or want a better way to organize your ideas into a coherent whole. Some find the creative juices flow without inhibition, only to get stuck at crafting the perfect headline. On every step of the way, having a digital tool can help ease the burden while pushing you on to higher planes of excellence.
As long as you invest in the right tools, you’ll save yourself precious time and money in the never-ending quest to make yourself a better writer, not to mention that the tools given here don’t cost an arm and a leg and so provide the right mix of usefulness and affordability, which is a wonderful brew if you’re just starting out on the road to writing superstardom.