Wow, has writing changed a lot from the time when you had to dip a quill in ink! I mean, can you imagine that you had to rewrite your entire copy every time you edited anything? Or consult a dictionary to make sure that you actually spelled a word correctly? No grammar aid, or tool to watch out for length sentences. And then, of course, there were the limitations of candle light – which was both expensive and a serious strain for the eyes.
Since then we’ve come a long way, but the journey is very far from done. New tools are still coming out, both to help us deal with the problems of yesteryear as well as new problems that are arising as a result of technology. Here, let’s look at some of the coolest new technologies to come out in recent years.
First, let’s look at a tool that has been created specifically to deal with some of the new problems which have arisen as a result of modern technology – the technology overload. Because, let’s face it, social media isn’t your friend when you’re trying to write length texts. For, though they don’t necessarily cost you any time, they do significantly boost your stress, your frustration, time pressure and require more effort as you try to make up for them.
FocusWriter is a way around that. This free app hides all the other programs on the desktop behind a pretty picture. Then you simply get to write and focus on what you’re writing on. This makes it exceptionally useful for first draft.
What it is not very good for is editing, however. There it doesn’t have a lot of the options other software packages have. So, for that you’ll need another piece of software. Yes, that can be a little bit annoying. On the other hand, it does mean that you keep editing and writing separate – somethings that is widely seen as good advice if you want to actually get stuff done.
One of the things that often makes editing your texts incredibly difficult is that you can’t separate what you expected to write from what you actually wrote down. For that reason, you often need another set of eyes to look at the text. The thing is, editors cost a lot of money, so really, you’d like the help of a piece of software if you could.
That’s where Readable.io comes in. This program will number-crunch your article for you. This isn’t exactly the same as editing, but will certainly let you look at your text in a new light. For example, they’ll tell you the frequency of a certain word, whereby you can then figure out if you might be overusing it. Similarly, they’ll point out run-on sentences, passive constructions, clichés, and other problems. They’ll even let you know how well your text scores in terms of several readability formulas out there.
Then, armed with these insights, you’re far more likely to be able to find and tackle problem areas and gain insights you otherwise wouldn’t have had. This tool will give you a number of free uses per month after which you’ll have to pay – though even then it’s not that expensive.
Do you know what markdown is? If you don’t, then you’re in for a treat! Okay, no, that’s not right. Initially you’ll be in for a bit of frustration as you’ll have to sit down and learn a new way of marking and annotating your text, but once you’ve got through that you’re in for a treat! You see, Markdown is a way that you can communicate cleanly and effectively with software like WordPress, by indicating where you want your headlines, you links, your indents and your bullet points. All without actually having to work in WordPress itself!
A very useful program that allows you to write in Markdown is Writemonkey. The great thing about this software is that it’s fantastic for preparing a text for online publication without having all the ten thousand things that distract you online going for your attention. It’s got an incredibly simple layout, without forcing you to pare down your expectations about what a writing program should be able to do.
If you’re working with academic references – say because you’re writing for university – then you need a citation program. These will put your references in the right place, and make sure they’re formatted correctly.
And though there are a lot of citation tools out there, the on we like best has to be Citatior. It’s clean, it’s easy to use and it doesn’t require you to download any actual software before you can use it. Just choose the citation style you need at the top, copy and paste the information you need and bob’s your uncle.
Use too many expressions like ‘bob’s your uncle’? Then you have to nip that in the bud, turn over a new leaf and widen your horizons. A good way to do that is to turn to Cliché finder. It will go through your text and highlight when you’ve written something in a done that, been there style. Then you can think of new and interesting ways to say what you want to.
Do note that you don’t necessarily have to get rid of every single cliché you use. Sometimes a cliché can help you get a point across quickly and efficiently. It’s when you over use them that you need to start worrying. Two or three per text is okay. More and you really need to start finding new ways to say things.
Yes, trying out new apps and seeing if they’re for you is a lot of work. Personally, I’ve gone through dozens – if not hundreds – order to find the few that I like. That has been a bit of a time-consuming process, I have to admit. At the same time, when I do find something I like then I quickly recuperate the time I lost elsewhere.
As an added bonus, I recuperate that time when I need to most. Namely when there is a big deadline approaching or I’ve got a rush job to finish. For that reason, make sure you keep trying new stuff. Though it won’t always work out, when it does it can really make it worth it.
If you like this blog post, you’ll love our Author Toolkit with templates, worksheets and checklists for writing nonfiction. Check it out!