Many people have trouble writing content, especially as we keep being told that we need to write lots of it. So it’s only natural that when you do it all the time, you learn a few little tips and techniques that will help you get the job done easier and quicker.
Here are my top five tools that do just that.
Word is a superb word processor, it just is. I’m currently using a beta of the 2016 release, and they’ve made it even better. It’s clean, it’s quick, it’s got a brilliant spell and grammar checker so if you’ve got it, you should use it.
However, you should also be using it correctly. Many businesses I know have a version installed, and they use it for all their printed communication, but still there are spelling and grammatical errors that make the content look amateurish. Word can help, in fact, it does help automatically, so why are people ignoring it?
For example, here’s what it thinks of an especially bad paragraph of text:
I know it’s missed one, but it’s picked up most of the errors in that copy. I saw some text much like this from a local pub, and they put it on Facebook, their website and also printed it on flyers. That’s not good marketing. A simple check would have made them look a lot more professional.
Grammarly – Turning it Up a Notch
So Word does a good job, but what if you want to make your text shine? Well, there’s a fantastic tool called Grammarly that plugs into Word and takes the grammar checking capabilities up a notch. Let’s see what it makes of the above sentence:
It’s picked up on everything. Notice you still have to use your common sense as well because remember, it’s a machine using algorithms to analyse the English language, and that’s a tough job. However, it gives you a heads-up on areas you’ve missed, and if you’re writing a long article, it’s easy to miss the obvious.
If you produce a lot of business communication, this is a tool you really should have in your arsenal.
The biggest problem most writers have is with distractions You get distracted for a second and before you know it you’re on Facebook clicking on “The Top Ten Cat Videos of 2015”. When you return to your computer, you’ve wasted 20 minutes and it takes another 20 to get going again.
Designed originally to help people study and write their dissertations, it’s fantastic for writers, too. If you find yourself endlessly surfing sites when you should be working, this will simply block them and you’ll find you get more done.
It’s $15 and worth every American cent of it.
I use Microsoft Word most of the time and always when I’m in the editing phase, however I also have another tool which I absolutely love. It’s made me more productive than any other writing application in my collection and I use it when I really have no ideas at all.
It’s called ‘Ommwriter’.
Weird name, weird app. When you load it up, you get an almost blank screen that just invites you to write:
You also get some strange, ethereal music coming out your speakers designed to help you focus on the task at hand. Pop some headphones on for the best effect and you’ll find yourself writing in no time.
There’s no spell or grammar checker, you can’t upload images and it only saves in its own format, but this minimal distraction means you just get on with the job at hand. When you’re done, copy everything into Word and realise what a terrible speller you are!
Much of my writing involves explaining things to people, and the best way to do that is often via images and screenshots. So, you need a great tool to take screenshots and the one I use is Snagit from Techsmith.
I’ve tried plenty of tools like this, and I’ve found nothing better so far.
The Snagit button sits almost hidden at the top or side of your screen and when you find something you want to snapshot, you click it. This then gives you a cross hair where you can grab what it is you want to copy and snap – you’re done.
When in the editor, you can then add annotations, drawings, filters and all sorts of things to mark up your new image:
But the real benefit of this tool over others is the ease with which you can share your masterpiece. For example, if I’m editing in Word and I want to insert the image, I click on the ‘share’ tab, hit the ‘Word’ icon and it’s pushed right into the document.
Free versions of the above?
Most of these tools need to be paid for, but believe me, it’s worth it. The amount of productivity time they give you back is more than worth it, but obviously, there are other applications that can do the same but for free.
I’ll be covering those in another blog soon, but if you have your favourites, leave them in the comments below.