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12 must-try online tools for content writers

Writing a new piece of content can be an arduous task, particularly if you are a beginner like myself. Giving words to thoughts and sifting, organising, and arranging the multitude of ideas and experiences is a challenge in itself. Worrying, then, about grammar, sentence structure, search engine optimisation and the likes would be a nightmare.

Also, how unfair is it to someone with brilliant ideas and perspectives to not be able to draw attention from the intended audience only because the content wasn’t optimised for search engines or because readers got lost in complex sentences, grammatical mistakes, and poor vocabulary.

Honestly, I don’t see a better alternative to a human proof-reader, who identifies errors and also offers a different perspective. But for those of us who do not have the luxury of having a proof-reader, these 12 apps can be extremely helpful in improving the quality of content.

Grammarly is an impressive tool that helps you identify and correct any grammatical or contextual errors (most of which MS Word does not identify). It also looks for problems with sentence structure and punctuation. Most importantly, you can add it to Chrome so your e-mails, tweets, Facebook status updates and almost anything you write on the web, is error-free. Like other similar apps, Grammarly does identify some issues incorrectly so you must not blindly accept all suggestions it offers.

The app is set to American English by default. If you are a British English fan like me, you can log into your Grammarly account, visit profile and switch.

The paid version of the app ($11.66 per month on an annual plan) offers vocabulary enhancements, the ability to get customised suggestions based on selected genre of writing, and a plagiarism checker too. I have yet to tried the paid version so cannot suggest how useful it is.

With this free app, all you need to do is copy and paste your text into the Hemingway Editor. The app colour codes complicated sentences, confusing words, and passive phrasing. It does not provide specific suggestions on how to improve the highlighted content, but offers a general suggestion to remove unnecessary words, split long sentences into two, use active instead of passive voice, and more.

The app also calculates a readability score showing how easily understandable your content is.

So, here are two tools together - both helpful in generating interesting blog titles. A great blog accompanied by a boring or irrelevant headline is very likely to never be clicked on. These topic generators prompt you to provide keywords and use those to come up with options for attention-grabbing headlines. I personally find ideas given by Portent much more interesting. Like most other tools though, both of these are not perfect but can surely get your creative juices flowing and help you understand how to craft a great title.

You have a word but it isn’t the one you are really looking for, or have used the same word too many times and an alternative would sound better? This is the app you need. It is a completely crowd-sourced, free app available for desktop and mobile. It offers hundreds of synonyms and antonyms and rates them according to users’ feedback on their appropriateness. You can also filter the results according to parts of speech. It even gives a small preview of what words other writers around the world are finding synonyms for.

As content writers, we all wish we had one place to save all our ideas and reference material for a blog we are writing or plan to write. Pocket allows you to save directly from over 800 apps including Twitter. Once you save an image, video, web page, or article to Pocket, it is accessible offline too – which is what I love the most about it. You can find popular online resources on different topics too.

Pocket comes as an extension for Chrome and is also available on iPhone, iPad, Android and Kindle. The free version of pocket is good enough but Pocket premium offers several other nifty features you might want to try out.

I really love this one. Public spaces are noisy and can be distracting. This app helps you use a combination of calming sound clips to create soundscapes that help you focus and make you more productive. My personal favourite is a combination of ‘Waves’, ‘Fire’ and ‘Crickets’. Find out what combination helps you write better!

Soovle is primarily a keyword search engine. It instantly suggests searches to your search keyword from 7 search engines including Google, Yahoo, Ask, YouTube. To put it simply, keywords are the words people generally use to find content related to the theme of your blog. Adding these to your blog post makes it easier for people to find it on search engines. Soovle identifies keywords related to your topic of interest so all you have to do is ensure your blog post uses them frequently.

Unsplash and Canva for visual content:

These are two life-saving resources for bloggers. I used both of these to create the title image for this blog.

Having your content stand out is getting difficult by the day. Adding images and visual content to your blogs can help you get noticed and better connect with your audience. Not all of us can, however, create images from scratch or afford to buy them. Most of the times it is not feasible to hire a photographer or graphic designer either.

Unsplash offers free, high resolution photos for use, while Canva is a designing tool with layouts, free images, text styles and what not to get you started. A lot of their content is free but premium images and elements are available for additional 1 dollar each. The best part is that you don’t have to worry about image dimensions and can choose one directly from Canva.

Like the name suggests, this tool helps identify extremely overused and redundant phrases and words. It does not suggest alternatives, but only identifies words and phrase that you may want to consider replacing with something more original and / or unique.

MS Word (Don’t skip):

I cannot stress enough how underutilised this word processor is possibly because it has been around so long we no longer care. It has a built in thesaurus, free downloadable dictionaries, and spell check and word count options.

You can even connect your blog (WordPress, Blogger and a few others) to MS Word so you can post directly from the Word document. Most of us just don’t know how to utilise it. I think I will be writing an entire blog on the useful features of MS Word for content writers. Subscribe to the website to make sure you don't miss it.

Bonus resources:

This is a beautiful piece of writing that I was introduced to by Orooj-e-Zafar, City Editor, Islamabad for The Missing Slate and one of the content writing mentors on Minerva’s panel. You will have to read it to find out why it is THE guide you need.

Seth Godin’s beautiful TED Talk on how to get your ideas to spread

You can have a great piece of writing, but it is no good if you can’t reach out to the people whom it is for or who care about what is written. This talk is full of examples of what sells and why.

Let us know if you use a tool that we have skipped. Remember, however, that tools may offer quick help, but eventually it’s not the wand, it’s the wizard.

Good luck with your writing!

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