Whatever type of writing you write, from professional emails to novels, apps can help you become a better writer. If you haven’t gone beyond a quick, automated spell check, you’ll be happy to know the range of free tools available. But gratuity is not enough; a good writing app shouldn’t significantly affect the speed or flow of your writing, and it should meet your needs as a writer. Here are easy-to-access writing tools, including two apps that may be new to you, organized by common writing issues.
Let’s start with common typos and grammatical errors. I see these errors from all levels of writers in emails and other texts, regardless of their age. No, referring to a decade like the 1980s doesn’t take an apostrophe. The built-in tools of your favorite word processing platform and your email program will probably be enough to avoid these errors. Word tools are accessible under “File” then “Spelling and grammar”. Click to launch. As you go through your document, checking the words underlined in red, use the right pane to add words to the dictionary that you know to be correct but not recognized by Word. The blue underline indicates grammar errors, so click the suggestions in the pane to correct them. Sometimes you might want an unconventional build for the style, and in that case click “Skip Once” or “Don’t Look For This Problem” if this is a signature style for you. Google Sheets works the same way. It also automatically adds all the headers on the left side of the writing window, which serve as a convenient outline.
Do not rely on a program’s spelling and grammar checker, as it can still be missing errors. If you typed “there” and meant “their”, the checker will likely not report the error. Always read your writing, preferably after a break so you can approach it with fresh eyes. For the important pieces, go a step further and have the text read over to you, which will help you spot missing words and awkward speeches. Use Word’s Read Aloud Speech or, if you’re on a PC, use Windows 10 Narrator, part of its accessibility features. You will need to activate it by going to “Ease of Access Center” by typing it in the Windows search bar at the bottom of your screen, then clicking on “Narrator”. You’ll want to remember the keyboard shortcut to turn it on and off. To do this, hold down the Windows, Ctrl, and Enter keys at the same time.
You can write with perfect spelling and grammar, but your text can still be wordy, flowery, and use the wrong words. There are few work scenarios where concise and clear writing is not valued. Emails, reports and presentations will be better received if you stick to your points. (For emails, a phone call may be a better choice if you have a lot to say.) In a recent series of emails, I questioned a colleague’s decision and she told me. replied by saying that she “understood my reservations”. Maybe she meant hesitation, but it was clear she didn’t know the meaning of reluctance! When writing, avoid fancy words – they don’t make you smarter and can be easily misunderstood by your readers. Analyze your writing for long words and replace it with a shorter one if possible.
If you need help, try the Hemmingway app, named after the author’s signature writing style: simple, strong sentences. The app uses a variety of highlighters to identify sentences that are too long or too dense, complex words, adverbs that can be eliminated, and places where you are incorrectly using the passive voice.
Sometimes you just can’t find the right word and there is an app for that too. Try the OneLook Reverse Dictionary which looks like an upside down thesaurus. You type a rough definition of the word you are looking for in the search bar and it generates a list of matching words and phrases. Your search term can be a single word, a few words, or an entire sentence. You can also use OneLook to answer factual questions such as “What is the capital of Senegal?
If you are faced with complex text, Airstory can be used to help organize your work. It turns pretty much everything into a drag-and-drop map, replacing the popular plug-in method. Anything online can be saved as a map with its source, which is great for researchers. You can also save images, emails, and survey responses and send them all to your project. Airstory offers a seven-day free trial, and then you’ll pay $ 25 per month.