8+ Writing Apps to Improve Your Writing Skills in 2020
There was a time when written communications were as simple as hieroglyphics etched in stone, or more recently, had everything to do with a simple wooden pencil or ink pen to paper.
Maybe you’re too young to remember the good old days or you don’t care. The thing is, communicating on paper or on a stone for that matter, wasn’t easy to share. Or organize.
When you write—personally, professionally, or for business—these days, the wonderful world wide web gives you unlimited ways to get the word out!
But also, the web now gifts you with a plethora of choices to up your writing skills or enhance writing productivity. I’m talking about Writing Apps and software to help you:
- get the job done,
- improve your writing, and, importantly,
- allow you to increase writing productivity. Yep.
Let’s dig in.
- 1 More than Text
1- Getting the Job Done: Text
The worst thing that can happen to a writer is losing their work. That’s why Google Docs is so popular for writing. Also, it is widely used and allows collaboration. I know a lot of content creators who do all their stuff using the Google Suite of free Apps.
But, with many editors and in the corporate world as well, Microsoft Word is still the requirement. I do work in Word but not because I’m very good at using it; but as I say, it is a standard.
Luckily, if you’re not super Word proficient, like me, other text editors, like Google Docs, allow you to save your document in Word format.
Pages is a widely preferred choice by Mac and IOS users but, I may never forgive Apple for the work Pages ate, never to be found again, over what they admit as an early glitch in the program.
I lost hours of original writing work and though others love using it, I am too traumatized to go back. Notes is also a keeper of text and ideas with ease for people-on-the-go.
Microsoft’s answer to Notes (like on your phone) and word processor note-taking, but what I love is the tab style method to help organize various parts of an idea, a piece of writing, or a project into a single notebook.
I’m only playing in this software for the first time but, so far, it’s very interesting. I like the options I’m finding. You can even make audio notes for yourself in this software.
More than Text
Finally, my new favorite contender, and getting stronger as I go, is Scrivener. By Literature & Latte, the first highlight for using Scrivener for a writer is you never lose your work.
Not only is your work auto-saved for you, but even the documents you trash remain retainable until you physically delete them with a double confirmation you want to do so. Plus, Scrivener software is compatible with just about everything for both importing and exporting things you need.
There’s a learning curve for getting the hang of Scrivener’s abundant features, but, for me, taking time to learn and use it looks like one of the best yet for my writing projects.
The real beauty of the Scrivener software for your writing projects is the project management capacity it gives you. Organizing not only text, but media files, attachments, footnotes and resources, and so much more, you gain project management capabilities including workflows, drafts, and note-taking systems all in one place.
Plus you can personalize colors, styles, a tagging system, icons, and even play with moving any components around as you please with a corkboard feature.
Here’s a look at how I set up one Scrivener project for my website strategy:
2- Improving Writing: Editing
Because even an editor needs an editor, I love Grammarly, a writing app that’s more than a spelling and grammar checker.
I use the paid version so I can apply it when I’m writing anywhere, like in WordPress, itself. But, one of the best things about Grammarly is it helps you track your progress. By sending you weekly updates and stats, it shows you how many words you write each week, and how many weeks in a row you’ve written, for instance. I’m at 48 straight weeks of writing right now!
What I find in using it regularly is it helps to correct your most usual mistakes so you can eliminate weak spots in your writing. For me, I am learning to write using fewer passive voice sentences and phrases with Grammarly. I always use dot dot dot way too often, like this…
Hemingway is similar for checking word use, grammar, spelling, and sentence-length as well as pointing out the passive voice; and, it’s free.
Use Thesaurus.com to twist words and phrases in different and interesting ways and to mix up your work. You can experiment at relatedwords.com for word ideas, too.
I don’t use a plagiarism checker because I know I am writing original work and credit resources, quotes, etc. as appropriate; but, remember that editors use them, so be sure only to create unique content as a rule. If you need a tool, try Plagium or the Copyscape plagiarism checker.
3- Adding Headlines: a Punch of Power
Never underestimate the power of your headline and the significant job it has to draw people in or lose them forever. Your subheadings, too, need to do their part in pulling readers along, offering value and key points even for skimmers.
Penning perfect headlines can be difficult, but they do matter enough to encourage you to put some extra thought and work into crafting them. I use the CoSchedule Headline Analyzer consistently and test as many as 25 renditions or more for scores on a single post’s title. Try it. Use it. It’s fun and helpful.
Another analyzer for headlines measures emotional values based on word algorithms and such and makes a great second option. Known as EMV for “emotional marketing value,” this headline tool from the Advanced Marketing Institute also considers the context in the analysis.
Have fun with it. Once you have a few intriguing possibilities, go back to the first two analyzers and run some checks. But, remember you are the final human switch to override all analyzers!
4. Organizing Research: Planning and Writing
Scrivener has a few outline capabilities, a structured filing system, color coding, and cork board features that make it a worthy contender for a project, structural, and content organization.
Still, I’m hooked on Trello because it helps me organize my writing, blog work, research, ideas, and has become my go-to catch-all for managing projects of every kind.
Trello is a system of boards, cards, and notes. Plus you can organize using checklists as well as collect research URL’s, photos, and even outline ideas. You can move things around with ease to adjust the order and write project notes to flag areas to revisit. I play with copy pieces in Trello and move ideas around like a puzzle.
Trello offers a collaborative environment for working with a colleague or a team. It also includes so many options to get your business strategies, workflows, scheduling, and data together in one convenient place.
Oh well, I can’t say enough about my love for Trello. Trello is one big outline of my business life.
Other people like Asana, or Basecamp for project management, but I’m on Trello’s free version and still see no end in its usefulness!
AirTable is another content managing option I recently learned of if you want to check it out. Seems creatives like the storyboard methodology in this one.
The important thing is you work with whatever project management system you find most comfortable and conducive to productivity for you.
You may find you like something for big projects and something else for structuring individual content pieces. Even when I work in Trello or Scrivener for a particular project, I often pull resources I am stocking up on via research collections. I collect articles, data, posts, etc. via a few different apps.
5- Collecting the Goods: Increase Productivity
My favorites to collect research are Pocket, Flipboard, and Feedly. All of these apps allow you to aggregate and/or curate collections to use or share later.
A lot of people collect research in EverNote, but it never clicked for me.
Flipboard, however, also gives you a fantastic way to showcase a portfolio of work or a collection of pieces to support ideas or topics in a “magazine” ready for presenting. You can create a Flipboard collection for every single subject you like.
Pocket and Feedly have a tagging system to order things in them.
6- Highlighting Content via Visuals
Add visuals to amplify your words in an easy to digest and meaningful way while breaking up text and enhancing your content. The best visuals add to your message by bringing a little extra emphasis using memorable elements like colors or headline text.
Of course, visuals can include various choices, but the main point is to drive a message straight to the brain. Think of each visual as a presentation itself, and, as part of the blog content presentation as a whole.
Use graphic elements to add flow and invite interest. As I learn more and more about web content creation, the more I understand the intense value the role visuals play as a blog asset. Again, effective graphics and visuals are part of a strategic approach and not an afterthought.
The first, easiest, and possibly best tool for bloggers for illustrations and online visual assets is Canva.
Not only is Canva the number one tool for so many professional bloggers, web writers, and business owners I know, but it’s the simplest to use and learn.
Canva’s also flexible enough to do it all, and I mean more than I have even gotten around to using in the nearly five years I lovingly play in Canva. This software is kind of like the pocket knife of handy gadgets for creations of every type in a snap.
But, you may want to add some other tools that are more fine-tuned for specific tasks.
Taking photographs to use on your blog means you are safe from copyright infringement. Snapping photos for yourself can be as simple as using your cell phone for original photography or videos.
7- Finding Photo Sources
This ultimate guide* for understanding the legal use of photography and other visual sources provides you with the types of permissions, how they work, and useful resources for photo sites you can check out. (*by Sharon Hurley Hall for CrazyEgg)
Most of my photos are via packages I’ve purchased (usually through AppSumo deals) from DepositPhotos. You can access a mix of visual media offerings there, but I use mainly photos that I edit and adjust, typically in Canva.
Free photo sites are also a favorite to bloggers. My favorite freebie is probably Pixabay. Others to try: Pexels, iStockPhoto, and Unsplash.
In the guide above, you’ll also find a link to a big list of other sites offering creative commons pictures from photographs to vectors to illustrations to video clips.
Correct attribution is the key, and some sites offer subscriptions. I spend quite a bit of time and effort getting the right visuals and feel. I always use them to add to my work.
But as you go and get more experimental with repurposing content, visuals may move from taking a supporting role to assuming the lead. And that’s when your toolbox gets a new jolt of helpful Apps and software.
8- Fine-Tuning for Extra Blog Kick
A writer’s work is never done. As you get deeper in developing digital writing skills and techniques, you’ll need to flex your writing muscle and extend the possibilities.
Turning posts into slide presentations, then into videos; and, adjusting post text to short expressive copy or into storyboards or audio scripts extends your value.
But, you’re going to need help to level up.
Don’t worry. If I’m doing this stuff, you can too. For sure. Just don’t be afraid to play around!
Starting with the easiest way to do visuals and using the most comfortable choice for you, presentation software like Canva or PowerPoint or Keynote or Google Slides gives you multimedia capabilities based on creating an excellent slide deck.
This one piece of work can be used individually in your posts, or to create a slide presentation and upload as a SlideShare as an additional content asset.
Not to mention, you’re amplifying your content via another platform and audience in a new format. SlideShares can also be embedded as a visual in posts. You can also use your slides for webinars, add audio over, or make a video from them.
How about stacking key points on slides into an infographic? Yep. Another freestanding visual, great for social media, or as an exciting addition for within your post.
And, I mentioned videos, right?
Camtasia is the go-to video editing tool for bloggers and, like Wistia, for a good reason, or ten.
Video editing is tricky, but these tools are do-it-all studios to help pull off professional-looking productions. Both of the above do require an investment in money and time. Still, I don’t have to tell you the trend toward video in digital content’s future.
The thing is, while video content livens visual communications in exciting ways, it all starts, like those hieroglyphics, with writing. Writing. Oh, those precious scrawlings that bring all the Writing Apps and software covered here to leaping life for your business writing success.