Top 5 Free Tools for Writers

Writing is a time consuming creative process to begin with, so why waste more of that time with formatting, planning, etc. Here are five of the tools many writers find to be invaluable.

1. Grammarly – Grammar Checker

grammarly

Grammarly is the best all-around grammar and format checker there is. It checks over 250 different points about your grammar, including style, spelling, punctuation, grammar, and sentence structure. It even has plagarism detection!

They have a free Chrome extension that gives you feedback real-time, but you can also pay $29.95/mo to use their web-interface and use their full functionality.

To learn more about the benefits of Grammarly, read our Grammarly review here.

 

2. Trello – Planning Made Simple

Trello is an awesome tool for managing both your writing and your team’s. It allows you to easily create categories (I normally use classic Kanban style “To Do,” “Doing,” “Done”), create tasks in each of those categories, then assign or color code those tasks. Moving the task cards is as simple as clicking on one and dragging.

Trello is 100% free unless you want some advanced features such as integrations with external apps, larger file attachments, etc. Give it a try!

They have a free Chrome extension that gives you feedback real-time, but you can also pay $29.95/mo to use their web-interface and use their full functionality.

3. Google Docs

You probably already use Google Docs and Sheets, but they are definitely worth mentioning. Google Docs has almost the exact same features as Microsoft Word, is cloud based, and can be edited real-time by anyone on your team. Google Docs makes requesting feedback on your work super simple. Instead of emailing a Word doc back and forth, just share the link with your proofreader and they immediately have access to comment on your work.

If you aren’t already using Google Docs, give it a shot. You may end up ditching your old word processing software.

4. Evernote – Notetaking. Anywhere.

Evernote is the best cloud-hosted note-taking app there is. You can store most forms of media within it including images, documents, notes, annotations. Everything is synced instantly so you can go from working on your computer to mobile device depending on the setting you’re in. They allow basic organization features including 2-level stacked notebooks (category and sub-category) as well as tags. Their search features are also cutting edge, making it super easy to find anything you’re looking for.

Evernote is free unless you need advanced annotation features or intend to upload more than 60Mb of content every month.

5. Unstuck App – Never Get Stuck Again

wpid-photo-may-17-2012-1152-pm1[1]Everyone gets writer’s block at sometime or another. Usually, it’s at the worst possible time. The Unstuck App seeks to remedy this by providing a toolkit and set of prompting questions that seek to get your creative juices flowing.

7 Days to Better Writing – Day 4: Improve Your Grammar and Vocabulary

What’s the number one way people are turned off by an author? Poor grammar and lots of typos.

Ok, not always, but generally when an author has a typo he/she immediately loses credibility. How many times have you pointed out a spelling mistake on a menu? We know We have.

If you’ve ever had issues with grammar or vocabulary, you are not alone. The onslaught of spell-checking software and grammar-checking websites exist for a reason. But never fear! There are a ton of ways you can improve your grammar and vocabulary.

 

Start by Defining Your “Issues”

Getting better at anything requires you to identify your weak areas. The same is true for improving your writing, grammar, and vocabulary.

  1. Ask a friend or seek professional help in order to spot your mistakes if you cannot identify them.
  2. Write down what you want to improve as starting point
  3. Figure out where you want to end up. Starting with the goal in-mind is crucial to bettering yourself. Want to improve your vocabulary? Set a goal to learn 100 new words in 3 months.
  4. Then create a strategy that will help you achieve that goal. If you set your goal around improving your vocabulary, set a goal to include 10 new words in every piece of writing going forward.

With a goal and strategy in mind, you will soon be on your way to achieving your goal.

 

Tools for Improvement

Now that you have your goal and plan for improvement, how can you actually improve your grammar, vocabulary, or other writing skillset? Thanks to the Internet, there are a lot of resources that you can use to get better. Below are some resources you can use:

  • Websites such as “Grammar Girl” provide daily tips and tricks for improving your grammar and punctuation. In addition, they provide lots of articles on correct usage.
  • There are tons of grammar and writing books out there, both for reference and improving your writing. One of our favorites is appropriately named “The Only Grammar Book You’ll Ever Need.”
  • As we mentioned on Day 1, read more. The fastest way kids learn new words is by reading books above their reading level and looking the words they don’t understand up in the dictionary. The same habit for adults. Reading more will not only teach you new words, but also provide you with examples of proper grammar.

 

Proofreading Other People’s Content

 

The classic cliché that “practice makes perfect” holds true with improving your writing as well. If you truly want to become better with grammar and expand your vocabulary, there is no better opportunity than proofreading. Once you’ve read some guidebooks/blogs on grammar, you’ll be able to easily pick out common errors in others’ writing.

There are a number of websites, scribendi.com and proofreadingpal.com to name a few, where you can apply to be a proofreader. Or just ask your friends to send their essays for school to you next time they need to submit one.

Proofreading is great practice for improving your grammar and vocabulary skills. You may even get to crack open a Thesaurus to see if you can learn a new word or two while editing.

 

For more from our 7 Days to Better Writing series:

Your Readers Judge You for Those Minor Typos

Have you ever laughed at a typo you saw in the menu at your favorite restaurant? It may not have deterred you from the delicious “Chicken Farmesan,” but it certainly caught your attention.

Recently, several psychologists have researched why we easily notice these typos and sometimes get angry or annoyed with them, particularly in emails (such as this one).

Through multiple experiments, researchers found that “readers rated the writers as less desirable if the emails included either typos or grammatical errors.” In particular:

People who scored high in conscientiousness or low on the “open-to-experience” trait were more bothered by the typos. People who scored low on agreeability were more bothered by the grammos [sic]. And people who scored low on “extraversion” were more bothered by both types of errors. In contrast, how people scored on neuroticism did not alter the impact of either type of error.

The experiments couldn’t say 100% conclusively whether your friends will judge you negatively if you have typos in your messages, but did infer that you should probably proofread before sending. Especially watch out for those late-night text messages.

SalonThose little typos and grammar errors in your emails make a big impression

7 Days to Better Writing – Day 3: Join a Writing Community

As you continue on your journey to better writing, you may begin to feel a bit lonely. Maybe you’ve been spending quite some time indoors honing your daily habit of writing or you just wished someone were there to keep pushing you. Never fear! The revolution of the Internet has brought writing communities that are just a click away where you can join thousands of other people on a similar journey.

 

Why Join a Writing Community?

  • They serve as a forum to interact with different people worldwide. These people have the same passion for writing as you do and also want to become better writers.
  • You can always seek advice from those who are further along on their journey than you. In addition, getting feedback on your writing from lots of different people will always make it better.
  • People always share “goodies” on these communities. Whether it’s good books worth reading, meditation tapes, funny images, writing resources, etc., writing communities can provide you with valuable information.
  • Postings for jobs or contests are always posted in these communities.

And top of these reasons, you are making friends, which is always a plus. Making friends with folks from around the world who share similar interests will help you in your writing journey. You learn from different cultures and you share your knowledge with others.

 

Where Can You Find Good Writing Communities?

Surfing the net is the easiest way to find writing communities that fit your specific needs. Websites such as Scribophile are a good way to start. Reddit channels such as r/Writing also provide a great pre-built community where writers can share their work and get real-time feedback on it.

 

There are also several Facebook pages that you can join or follow. From communities dedicated to work as a “Union for Freelance Writers” to sites where you can share a laugh with the people there or even share with your non-writer friends. If for some reason you don’t find anything that appeals to your taste, go ahead and create your own writing community. Make sure it has a specific focus though to ensure people stay engaged.

 

For more from our 7 Days to Better Writing series:

7 Days to Better Writing – Day 2: Just Write

Literary legend Ernest Hemingway once said:

 

“When I am working on a book or a story I write every morning as soon after first light is possible. There is no one to disturb you and it is cool or cold and you come to your work and warm as you write. You read what you have written and, as you always stop when you know what is going to happen next, you go on from there. Your write until you come to a place where you still have your juice and know what will happen next and you stop and try to live though until the next day when you hit it again. You have started at six in the morning, say, and may go on until noon or be through before that. When you stop you are as empty, and at the same time never empty but filling, as when you have made love to someone you love. Nothing can hurt you, nothing can happen, nothing means anything until the next day when you do it again. It is the wait until the next day that is hard to get through”

 

 

An Exercised Writer Is a Healthy Writer

Writing is like exercise or playing the violin. If you don’t continuously practice, you’ll lose your skill. You don’t have to practice very hard or for too long. The simple act of regularly writing will take you far enough.

 

Just Write

Form a daily habit of writing. Whether it’s in your journal from Day 1 or on a blog, make sure you write something every day. Even if it’s a paragraph to begin with, the act of starting to write will get your creative juices flowing.

 

Practice. Practice a lot. Even if you don’t have something in mind, grab a piece of paper, your notepad, or even your laptop. Move to a place where you know you won’t be disturbed, and start writing. Just write about whatever idea crosses your mind. You may end up writing about the lottery numbers your mother played yesterday, about the beauty of the neighbor’s garden whose flowers are blossoming, or even about your crush who you saw this morning. The point is to exercise not only your creativity, but also how you manifest new ideas.

 

Deadlines Don’t Matter

Unless we are talking about your day-to-day job, writing is not meant to become something you work at as if it’s a high-school essay. Writing is meant to be for you, whether for therapeutic reasons, such as a journal, or the enjoyment of telling a story. If you treat writing like work, you will end up hating it.

 

Maintain Your Self-Health

A “writing muscle” is useless without the physical body and mind behind it. To be a better writer, you need to make sure you’re in the best possible health. Reduce your stress as we taught you in Day 1, get plenty of sleep, and keep up your healthy physical exercise routine.

 

If you practice the daily habit of writing, soon enough you’ll be writing novels without even thinking about it. Writing is funny like that. Ideas may evade your mind for a while, but once they start flowing, you won’t be able to stop them.

For more from our 7 Days to Better Writing series:

7 Days to Better Writing – Day 1: Getting Creative

 

Welcome to our seven-day journey to better writing. Your journey begins with exercises to increase your creativeness and daily writing habits, followed by resources to improve your current writing, and ends with how to publish. Today we’ll discuss how you can become more focused and creative in order to prepare for a writing session.

 

Reduce Your Stress

Ever sit down to write and just end up starting blankly into space? Common as it is, writer’s block is not a pleasant thing, but the good news is that it’s easily rectified. Below are several ways you can calm your mind to let creativity back in.

 

Meditate

Mediation is quickly becoming a popular method for relieving stressors and letting ideas flow. Famous entrepreneur and tech mogul Steve Jobs was famous for his meditation. In fact, if he hadn’t founded Apple, he would’ve become a Buddhist monk. The essence of meditation is that you focus solely on your breathing, letting all extraneous thoughts go. While there are an abundance of apps, blogs, etc. with guided mediations, a good app to start with is Head Space.

 

Read

These days, there are a lot of excuses not to read. Too much work, too many kid activities, etc. You know what many of the billionaires in the world have in common? They read. Not only does reading free your mind from the racing thoughts of the day, but by consuming other peoples’ ideas, you expand the range of your ideas. I challenge you to read at least 30 minutes every day and not think of a new idea for a blog entry!

 

Keep a Journal

If you’ve never journaled before, start by forcing yourself to write for five minutes a day; right before bed is usually a great time. Write about what you did that day and how you felt. What pissed you off or made you jump for joy? Over time, you’ll start tracking ideas and thoughts you’ve had which you can review at any time in the future. Moleskine journals are a classic component of the writer’s toolbox.

 

Take a Creative Challenge

I’ve had the pleasure of seeing Noah Scalin, the creator of Skull-A-Day, present twice, both times speaking about how living in a tech-driven world has reduced creativity. As a way of compensating, Noah has created #CreativeSprint, a 30-day email challenge that forces you to be creative every day for a month regardless of where you are. He also created a companion book that will challenge you to be creative every day of the year.

 

Becoming more creative is your first step to becoming a better writer. The next step, presented in Day 2, is just writing. See you tomorrow!

Capitalize Titles with the MINTS Acronym

If you don’t have time to use our super simple title capitalization tool there is another simple way to capitalize titles quickly. The “MINTS” acronym will give you some set rules to capitalize titles correctly:

M – Months, days, holidays

I – The pronoun I

N – Names of people, places, etc.

T – Titles of books, movies, etc.

S – Start of sentences

Here’s a great image overview of the acronym at work courtesy of Teachers Pay Teachers:capitalize titles with the mint acronym

How to Capitalize Christmas Song Titles

 

‘Tis the season to deck the halls with boughs of holly, but it’s also the time of year to capitalize your Christmas song titles correctly so that you’re not embarrassed when your musical program contains the wrong capitalization. Here’s a list of some of the most popular holiday songs with their appropriate capitalization.

 

Deck the Halls

Joy to the World

Jingle Bells

O Come All Ye Faithful

All I Want for Christmas Is You

Little Drummer Boy

White Christmas

Do You Hear What I Hear

Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas

Silent Night

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer

It’s The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like Christmas

Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town

Sleigh Ride

O Little Town of Bethlehem

 

Title capitalization courtesy of CapitalizeMyTitle.com

5 Ways to Write Killer Blog Titles

Use these five tips for creating blog titles that make readers want to stick around and read your content.

1. Start with a working title

Maybe you have a general topic in mind, but haven’t started writing yet. Who knows where your blog post will end up? A working title helps point you in the right direction. Your working title is not going to be perfect the first time, but it will help guide your writing. As you continue to write, iterate on your working title so that it correctly outlines what your post is about.

2. Hook your audience

Have you ever noticed those advertisements that grab your attention by luring you to read more? Often a simple sentence with a captivating lead will be enough to grab your audience’s attention. Use a question that hooks the reader and entices them to read further. Reviewing a list of options? Include the number of options in your title (i.e.: 10 Things You Can Do to Improve Your Writing, 5 Ways to Lose 10 Pounds Now)

Use Teasers

Use lead-ins such as “How to…” or “10 Ways to…” These sorts of titles beg the reader to read further. Another great trick is to end your title with an ellipses (…) so that your readers are forced to at least start reading your article in order to feel complete.

Be Provocative

Including controversial topics in your titles will certainly get people to read the rest of your article. Who wouldn’t want to read about sex, drugs, and rock and roll? These topics are sure to get readers and even if your blog post doesn’t really relate to any controversial topic, find a way to work some in anyway. Warnings are another great way to get attention.

Use Questions

“Which…?,” “Who…?,” “How…?,” “Should…?,” and “Why…?” are all great ways to begin your title. Not only does it cause the reader to pause, but if you include something controversial in the question, readers will be curious to read how you responded.

 

3. Use correct formatting

Capitalize Your Titles Properly

No sooner will your blog comments be filled with jokes about how idiotic you are if your titles are not properly capitalized. Don’t be humiliated when your article is broadcast to your thousands of blog followers by checking your capitalization before you post. A great tool you can use is Capitalize My Title.

Word Count

Readers are more likely to notice short titles as they’re scrolling through lists of articles and other things on their news feeds. Short title are also great for social media (think about Twitter’s 140 character limit). Every word in the title should have a part to play. Short and sweet is best; an ideal length is 6-7 words.

 

4. Do your research

Optimize Your Titles for SEO

Although SEO is on the decline, Google searches are still a popular way for readers to find your content. Make sure you do your keyword research anyway to make sure search engines rank your content well and potential readers will actually be captivated by your title. A great tool to check how powerful your title is the Headline Analyzer.

Be Accurate and Back Up Your Claims

The advent of the internet brought information to the masses. No longer were experts the exclusive holders of information. Now anyone could learn about any topic with a few clicks. With this easy availability though, anyone could also verify claims made by content creators. Make sure you do your research beforehand to avoid making far-fetched claims that turn out to be inaccurate or your readers will certainly let you know.

 

5. Make it sexy

Just because you want to have a professional, accurate title does not mean you can’t make it catchy. Use some of these tips to make your titles sexy, yet classy.

Have Fun with Alliterations

Although subtle, alliterations can play a huge role in making your blog titles catchy. Isn’t a title such as “Follow this Foolproof Formula” or “5 Super Simple Ways…” much more fun to read than “A simple formula to..” or “5 Ways to…”? Sprinkle an alliteration or two into your titles, especially when sharing on social media.

Use Strong Language

Just as a controversial title will lead to more click-throughs, using strong language will bring in the readers. Strong phrases (and, frankly, often negative ones) like “Kick-Ass,” “Things People Hate,” or “Brilliant” pack quite a punch. However, these must be used in moderation.

 

For more ideas on how to spice up your blog titles, check out Words that Sell.

Top 12 Most Common Title Capitalization Questions

Ever wonder what the most common title capitalization questions were? I took the top searched title capitalization questions from Google using keyword research and have answered them below.

Top Questions


Do you capitalize hyphenated words in a title?

Hyphenated words are complicated and depend on which style you are using.

Using The Chicago Manual of Style:

  1. Always capitalize the first element.
  2. Capitalize any subsequent elements unless they are articles, prepositions, coordinating conjunctions
  3. If the first element is merely a prefix or combining form that could not stand by itself as a word (anti, pre, etc.), do not capitalize the second element unless it is a proper noun or proper adjective.
  4. Capitalize the second element in a hyphenated spelled-out number (twenty-one or twenty-first, etc.) or hyphenated simple fraction (two-thirds in two-thirds majority).

Source: http://alcts.ala.org/ccdablog/?tag=chicago-manual-of-style

Using APA:

  1. Capitalize the first and second element of a hyphenated phrase

Do you capitalize “internet” in a title?

When referring to the Internet as a proper noun (ie you are referring to the World Wide Web), then Internet should be capitalized. If you are referring to a general network of computers, then you can use the lowercase internet. Most of the time, Internet will be capitalized. Learn more about this on-going debate here.

However, you should always follow the standard title capitalization rules for capitalizing titles.


Do you capitalize nouns in a title?

Generally, you should capitalize all nouns in a sentence if you are using title case (Chicago, APA, AP). However, if you are using sentence case in APA, you should only capitalize the first word in a sentence and only proper nouns ¹.


Do you capitalize days of the week in a title?

The short answer is yes. You should capitalize all days of the week (Monday, Tuesday, etc), months (August, September, etc.), and holidays (Christmas, Halloween, etc.).

Thanksgiving in November, Christmas in December, and New Years in January: North America has a lot of winter holidays.

Your birthday is in March, right?

– More examples


Do you capitalize “the” in a title?

No. The word “the” is always lowercased in all title capitalization styles unless it is the first or last word in a sentence.


Do you capitalize “university” in a title?

When the word is referred to generically, “university” is not capitalized. When used as a proper noun, such as “Florida State University,” the word is capitalized.

The Florida State University offense could use some work this year.

The board of the university elected the new president.

– More examples


Do you capitalize “it” in a title?

Generally, you should capitalize the word “it” when using title case (Chicago, APA, AP). However, if you are using sentence case in APA, you should only capitalize “it” if it is the first word in the sentence.


Do you capitalize “with” in a title?

The word “with” should always be lowercase in a title unless it is the first or last word in a sentence.


Do you capitalize “you” in a title?

Generally, you should capitalize the word “you” when using title case (Chicago, APA, AP). However, if you are using sentence case in APA, you should only capitalize “you” if it is the first word in the sentence.


Do you capitalize “world” in a title?

Generally, you should capitalize the word “world” when using title case (Chicago, APA, AP). However, if you are using sentence case in APA, you should only capitalize “world” if it is the first word in the sentence or is part of name (such as “World Wide Web” or “World Wildlife Federation”).


Do you capitalize “is” in a title?

Generally, you should capitalize the word “is” when using title case (Chicago, APA, AP). However, if you are using sentence case in APA, you should only capitalize “is” if it is the first word in the sentence.


Do you capitalize “in” in a title?

The word “in” is always lowercase unless it is the first or last word in a sentence.

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