We’re going to need a bigger toolbox.
Writers are craftspeople. Like all craftspeople, we need our tools. Back in the day, a nice sharp H2B pencil and a sturdy wad of paper were all we needed, but these days it would be crazy not to make use of the huge range of online tools at your fingertips.
Here, we share our favourite websites. These clever little doodads will help you carve out the right headspace and break free from writers’ block, as well as edit, simplify and finesse your writing.
Claim back your concentration – Freedom.to
Freedom (Freedom.to) lets you choose to block distracting bits online and “develop healthier, more intentional digital habits that give you control over your time and attention.”
Does it work? Yep – just listen to Maura.
“The Freedom app disciplines me when I don’t have the human strength to do so,” says Maura Chanz, actress, artist and entrepreneur. John Kovalic, a cartoonist and illustrator, claims his first kids’ book was completed directly due to the extra hours Freedom gave him.
Once you’re signed up it’s a three-step process: select your devices, set your schedule and block apps and websites. Enjoy your newfound freedom.
Timeless treasures – Dictionary.com
Dictionaries and thesauruses are arguably the world’s most useful resources. A few hundreds of years ago a handful of very clever, long-suffering intellectuals researched and wrote these exhaustive reference books. Their pain, your gain.
You never need to agonise over a word’s true meaning or spelling – it’s right there at Dictionary.com (along with Word for the Day: Build your vocabulary with new words, definitions, and origin stories every day of the week). Nor do you need to thirst for a synonym – Thesaurus.com is never in drought.
Rhyme time – Rhymezone.com
Sometimes you just need to lighten the mood with a little wordplay. Social media posts, blogs and even subheads in web copy and articles are great places to sneak in a clever line or two.
If you’re struggling to limber up a tired brain, Rhymezone.com is guaranteed to open the floodgates. Just pop in the word/concept as a starting point, and then choose how you’d like to get creative. For example, you can find rhymes, near rhymes, related words, homophones, or lyrics and poems related to that word. You can also choose to search for the word in Shakespeare, or search for relevant quotes.
A word of advice for young players – context and timing are everything. Less is more.
Lock it in – Hootesuite.com
Hootesuite.com’s purpose sounds very grand – “help you unlock the power of human connection”. But, in practice? It lets you schedule multiple social posts across a number of platforms. Not as fancy, but probably a bit more useful. A global leader in social media management, Hootesuite is trusted by more than 18 million customers.
Its core features are its ability to monitor, analyse, advertise and engage, but for writers, the key function is publishing. Within no time you’ll be creating, curating, reviewing and publishing content.
Keep it simple – Readable.com
The average reader’s attention span in 2020 is seven seconds – which is why I put readable.com in the headline. It’s an amazing tool to help you identify sentences that come across as clumsy, wordy or confusing.
Select ‘Test your readability’ on the readable.com home page, then drop in the text you’re working on. It will highlight opportunities for you to simplify your language – shorten sentences, remove superfluous words and get suggestions to replace words that are unnecessarily fan-dangled.
Why is that good? Because big words and complex sentences make it seem like you have something to prove or that you don’t really know what you’re talking about. On the other hand, if your writing is clear and concise, you’ll look professional and credible.
Newspapers write for a 12-year-old reading age. As shocking as that sounds, you should aim to do the same – not because you think your readers are dumb, but so your writing doesn’t get in the way of understanding.
The proof is in the proofing – Grammarly.com
Whether you’re writing emails, social media posts, reviews, reports, articles, blogs or books, you just can’t afford to lose your audience over sloppy spelling, grammar or punctuation – and there’s no need for this to happen.
Grammarly.com is a simple online tool that identifies your mistakes and makes suggestions. It can also help you tweak your text so it’s in keeping with a chosen writing style and target market. Simply cut and paste or import your doc and it will do the hard work for you.
Just remember, Grammarly is not human, and one size does not fit all! Nuances, humour, and technical information can get lost in translation. Don’t follow it blindly and you’ll figure out its limits.
Make it pretty – Canva.com
Sure, you’re a writer but you know, “The medium is the message.” If your text looks appealing you’ll more easily hold the attention of your readers. Those who can couple clever text with eye-catching imagery do have a clear advantage.
Not a designer? This is where canva.com steps in – an easy-to-use site, where you can create and download professional designs for any occasion. Use Canva’s drag-and-drop feature and layouts to design, share and print business cards, logos, presentations, posters, social media posts and more. The world is your oyster, so start playing.
Stay on point
As writers, we’re in the business of wordsmithing. We construct sentences, fabricate paragraphs, and build blogs, business copy, books. Then we tinker with them – hone them, fashion them, refine them. That’s our mandate. But it’s much more fun (and efficient) when our tools are sharp.
The websites above let modern technology do the heavy lifting. They’ll help you get in the zone and stay in the zone – so you can get on with what you do best.
In the words of Jane Fonda: “No distractions. Centre yourself. This is your time.”