Hey there blogger!
Greetings from unusually cold Barcelona today! After my last überlist article proved so popular, today I thought I'd chip in with another super list. This time, a selection of tools to make your blog posts, copywriting and content flow smoothly. At the very least, we want to help you make your writing and stylistic efforts better than when you go it alone!
You know, when people sign up for my newsletter, I create a blog post aimed at that week's subscribers. I check out their blogs and explain the problems (and solutions) related to what I find on their site. Near the top of the list pretty much every time is the quality of the writing, spelling, and grammar.
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There are people who won't notice a misplaced comma or the wrong "their", sure, but many more people who do. What's more, they'll judge you for it. Commas are tiny, but we're trained to notice them. When we notice they're wrong, it doesn't reflect well on your business. But there's no need to worry! Everyone needs a helping hand or a watchful eye (even me, and I'm a grammar nazi!). There are many great tools that can keep watch, or give you extra help in areas you find hard. You have no excuse to neglect the spelling, style or grammar of your posts
Let's dig in!
Grammar and Spellchecking
I think of this as the original and best (even though it's definitely not). You might be used to built-in spellcheckers on your computer, but they won't help you out on the internet and when using platforms and tools. Grammarly will, and there's a free version. Use it in blog posts, social media platforms, graphics tools and more and see your writing instantly move up a rung.
How I used it in this post: It's installed as standard on my browser. It picked up about 10 errors in my final draft. Including a misspelling of "error"!
Ginger is a Grammarly alternative (or vice versa) and it might be of interest to you as it focusses on iPhone and mobile devices. I haven't used it, but it's also meant to have especially powerful spellchecking abilities that spot mistakes other tools miss.
Style and Readability
Now this baby has been around for years. It's a comprehensive text check that makes a really good go at checking for the things that make or break your style (beyond "just" spelling). It shows you why it's pointing out problems and how you can improve them, and frequent use will improve your skills significantly.
How I used it in this post: I ran my opening paragraphs through it and found complex sentences that needed breaking down.
When you're writing on a regular basis, thesauruses are going to become your best friend. You'll need to use them to find alternatives to words you have just used one too many times or to find a word that will help break up or improve the rhythm of a sentence. Power Thesaurus is a good option among many apps - it's crowd-sourced and has good filtering options.
How I used it in this post: I needed an alternative to "helpful". I settled on "valuable" and then changed direction completely (in the title).
My personal favorite thesaurus app, this one is a classic. It's not crowd-sourced, but I like its options to filter by word complexity and length.
How I used it in this post: I got a second opinion on that alternative to "helpful".
This one is great for when the cat's got your tongue - you describe a concept with other words, and it offers you possibilities for the word you are looking for. Even if it doesn't suggest the exact word you're looking for, the suggestions can be enough to kick your brain into action.
How I used it in this post: I didn't need it but have often used it in the past.
A tool that grades your text against common reading-level standards. The overall reading level online is much lower than you'd expect, and although your audience might have a higher reading level than average, it's good to keep your text simple. This tool provides a nice summary of how you can improve, and nerdtastic grammar stats for your text.
How I used it in this post: I trialed it out of interest and got the same grade as Hemingway.
Another grading tool in a slick interface. You need to click on the center tab to access the tool; the grade website option doesn't seem to be working.
I love this one, but as your writing improves, you'll find you use it less and less. Cliches are just that - cliched! They make your writing seem tired and old and make it harder to read. Unless you're making a point or a joke, it's probably best to try and remove them where possible, and this tool helps that.
Another classic, this one helps you brainstorm content and blog ideas with a handful of words. Like some of the other tools in this section, it won't help you become a better writer in and of itself, but they will help the writing process flow, which is key to getting better through actual practice. I've found it works best when you use 3 related terms or synonyms.
How I used it in this post: I didn't, as I already had an idea but I did plug in some Christmas-related terms for coaches and therapists. See image - you can thank me later!
At this point, Google Trends is a grandad among online tools, but it still fills a valuable role. Use it to compare two or more terms to see which is most popular in what locations.
How I used it in this post: I didn't, but I have used it recently to see if, globally, "worksheet" or "workbook" was the more common term. Where my target market lives, "worksheet" is better.
A new find for me, this tool lets you plug in your main idea and then uses big data to collect all the times it has been used to ask Google a question, breaking up the results by question word (who, where, why) and more. It can be great to give you new ideas when your original content idea just isn't proving fruitful, or you want to write about a concept, but don't have any ideas.
How I used it in this post: I didn't but will be adding it to my usual lineup for future posts.
Another great brainstorming tool, plug your ideas in and watch it spit out article titles. Sometimes they're useless, and sometimes they don't make grammatical sense, but they can definitely spark off a few new ideas, and for that alone can be worth a try once every so often.
How I used it in this post: I gave it a trial run with "scented candles". Some of the results were pretty usable - and some were...kinda difficult (but if you could make them work, you might have yourself a viral success!)
Another great tool (that doesn't always give me the result I want!) this headline analyzer looks at the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) of your title. That's the aspect of a text that appeals to a customer's emotions, and an emotional bond is a key to more sales. Here, the more the merrier, so try and get that percentage to over 50%. It ain't easy.
How I used it in this post: I ran multiple headlines through it until I got depressed at my score (44%!) and gave up!
One of my all-time favorites! This data-driven tool assesses your headlines and gives them a score out of 100. It makes suggestions as to how you can improve them and why it will make a difference. You need to sign up the first time you use it, but it's free.
How I used it in this post: I used it to assess my headline and, later, to pick my best alternate headlines for promoting my post on social media.
Another tool that's very similar to Co-Schedule, this one might help provide some new ideas, or work as a backup in case my favorite ever goes kaput!
Writing Tools and Others
Scrivener is an old-school downloadable app (I don't download apps much these days, do you?) for Windows and Mac. The reason I like it so much is that it allows you to write and edit offline (safer, in case the internet goes kaput at an inopportune moment) and it's specifically designed for professional writers, so it makes gathering reference material, editing, writing and organizing drafts very easy and manageable.
How I used it in this post: I had it installed on a laptop that went kaput (ha! The irony!) so don't have access to it right now.
This is an easy little tool that lets you run basic A/B tests on your headlines. This kind of testing allows you to see what resonates best with your audience. A/B testing is a jungle and if you're ready to start exploring, headlines are a great place to start. Wordpress only.
An oldie but a goodie, this article provides hints, tips and practical advice about how to improve your writing.
Power words are words that really compel readers to pay attention and take action. Check out this article for ideas, and use them when you can.
Also known as Grammar Girl, if you have a grammar doubt, she has the answer.
A classic article that refer to all the time - formula to help you get a perfect headline, every time.
My second-favorite formula website, if the first one doesn't work for a perfect headline, this one definitely will.