Perhaps the most difficult part of any communications job is the writing.
Even the most seasoned and passionate writers—whether they work in public relations, marketing or any other writing-heavy field—often run into issues relating to output, grammar and word choice.
Writing is harder than it looks, especially when you have a tight deadline and no margin for error.
Whether it’s drafting a press release, creating an op-ed in the voice of a client for a major news outlet, or sending valuable memos and updates to all relevant parties, communicators have a lot of writing to do. As artificial intelligence permeates today’s workplace, soft skills like writing will become more crucial to personal and organization-wide success.
Luckily, writers no longer have to make this uphill climb alone. There are a wealth of excellent online tools, many of them free or inexpensive, that can help you stay productive, accurate and on schedule. Consider these eight:
1. Grammarly. Grammarly is an all-in-one writing assistant that catches all your spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes, available as a Google Chrome plug-in for your browser or for other apps, such as Microsoft Office. Grammarly catches errors, makes vocabulary-improving suggestions and generally makes sure your writing is as clear as possible. Short of having a copy editor read over your shoulder, this is the closest you’ll get to instant feedback.
2. Hemingway Editor. Ernest Hemingway was known for his short, clean sentences; Hemingway Editor helps you follow his example. Copy and paste your text into this free online tool, and let the AI identify long sentences, extraneous adverbs, use of passive voice and other no-nos that would probably be edited out.
3. Voice typing in Google Docs. Some people think better when they’re speaking, as opposed to writing—they tap into their stream of consciousness more quickly and easily. Open Google Docs, and head to the “Tools” tab at the top of the page. You can enable “Voice typing” and simply talk. Watch as Google transcribes your thoughts instantly. Is it perfect? No, but you might find yourself spitting out turns of phrase and concepts that you wouldn’t have thought of otherwise.
4. OneLook Reverse Dictionary. Ever had a word on the tip of your tongue while writing, and no substitute will do? Have you perhaps written a long piece and, while going back through, noticed that you used the same adjective or verb over and over? The OneLook Thesaurus can help you with either issue, plus help with basic identifying questions, such as, “What is the oldest newspaper in the U.S.?” This tool will expand your vocabulary and give your writing variety and nuance.
5. Refly. Refly.it is a smart, AI-powered editor that catches grammar and spelling mistakes. This tool is even more helpful if you are writing content specifically for the web, as part of a digital marketing campaign. Refly gives you analysis and suggestions to help your content perform better—such as what images to use, how to better use keywords, how to structure the piece and so on. Your resulting work will be stronger from both a content and SEO perspective.
6. Todoist. Key to writing is organization. Time that you don’t spend jumping back and forth between ideas and tasks is time spent focusing on the project at hand. Use an app like Todoist to keep everything organized and in one place, meet your deadlines, and review what’s on the horizon. You’ll find it much easier to zero in on what you need to get done today if you’re not worrying about tomorrow.
7. Ideaflip. When writing is collaborative, it becomes more complicated. Multiple people are vying to make their point or establish the tone or feel as though they’re contributing in some tangible way. Enter Ideaflip, a real-time collaboration app through which people can share, refine, and present their ideas on a topic or project. You can import documents and images (such as memos, briefs and screenshots), and work with your team to turn your concepts into full-fledged projects.
8. Calmly. Distraction is the enemy of productivity—especially with writing, which often requires long stretches of uninterrupted focus. Allowing yourself to get distracted—by email, messages, your phone, or anything else—forces you to start the process all over again. That’s what makes Calmly so helpful: The Calmly interface tunes out everything else on your screen that might cause you to click away from the task at hand. “Focus Mode” goes even deeper, tuning out everything except for the paragraph you’re working on at that moment. When you need to put your head down and get to work, an app like this is invaluable.
Eric Goldschein is an editor and writer at Fundera, a marketplace for small business financial solutions such as small business loans. He covers entrepreneurship, small business trends, finance, and marketing.