As a writer, your job is to produce lots of useful, accessible, easy to read content. Here are seven online writing tools I recommend for putting lots of words on the page quickly, save time and improve my writing style.
Microsoft Word (Microsoft 365)
The big kahuna of the word processing scene, Microsoft Word is a staple in writing circles worldwide. Whether you’re a blogger, copywriter, journalist or work in – let’s face it – practically any major company anywhere in the world, Microsoft Word will be your go-to word processing tool.
If blogging is a side hustle for you and you use Microsoft Word in your day job, chances are you’ll be entitled to install a copy of the whole Microsoft 365 (what used to be Office 365) suite on your home computer. Just check in with your employer first, to see if that option is available to you.
If you don’t have access to Microsoft 365 through work, or if you want your own cloud storage along with your Microsoft 365 copy, check out the personal and family plans over at Microsoft.
Recently, Microsoft included the new-ish functionality Editor in most of its Microsoft 365 apps including Word. Editor is Microsoft’s answer to Grammarly and ProWritingAid. We’ll talk more about Editor in the ‘spelling, grammar and style’ section below.
Google Docs (Google Drive)
For many writers, Google Docs is one of the go-to writing tools for creating and collaborating on documents. With lots of useful writing features and the ability to export your Google Docs to any number of file formats, this is a great option if you’re on a limited budget and you can’t get Microsoft 365 through your employer.
Google Docs is also the tool of choice for many writers when it comes to collaborating on documents.
If you have an account with Google, you already have access to Google Docs along with 15 gigabytes of free storage. If you don’t, you can set up a Google account now, for free.
This one’s is for writing nerds. Like me! It’s actually my favourite writing tool! Clocking in at US$49 for a licence (with student discounts available), Scrivener might not be for everyone. But for the amount of word processing power it delivers, this is an insanely good price.
Scrivener can be described as Word meets OneNote meets EndNote meets your filing cabinet with a learning curve to match its complexity.
That learning curve can put aspiring writers off ever getting started, but if you persist you will have one writing app to rule them all. Scrivener lets you write anything from blog posts to novels to movie scripts. It’ll keep all of your research together in one easy to find place. (Seriously, you can store URLs, documents, notes, practically any sort of file in your Scrivener research sections.)
And there’s lots of tools inside of Scrivener that can be useful for writers of all flavours. (Going slightly off the blogging track here, but how does a fictional character name generator sound? Or the ability to compile that novel you’ve been working on into a ready-to-go ebook format or beautifully formatted PDF?)
I’ve been using Scrivener for a couple of years now, and it’s great. If you want to take it out for a spin, get a free Scrivener trial at Literature and Latte.
Ernest Hemingway is a GOAT! One of the greatest authors of all time! Not all of his writing has aged all that well. (Keep in mind, his writing career spanned the 1920s to 1950s, when certain norms and values were a bit different.) But, his writing style is still fantastic!
By style, I’m thinking short sentences, simple word, direct and active language, minimal adverbs (avoiding most words ending in -ly) and so on.
Surely, we bloggers could do with writing a bit more like Ernest Hemingway to make life simpler for our readers.
Enter the Hemingway Editor, also known as the Hemingway App. It’s one of the simplest and best free online writing tools I’ve come across, and it’ll have you writing in the style of Hemingway in no time. The Hemingway Editor checks that you’re not overusing adverbs and passive voice, and it tells you which sentences, phrases and even words could be made simpler.
It also does a quick calculation of how readable your content is by giving it a grade level. That grade level corresponds to years of schooling. So a grade level of six means a sixth-grader should be able to read it. Did you get a grade level of 15 on your text? That’s university graduate stuff. As an insider tip, aim for a grade level of no more than seven for general blog content.
Grammarly is like the Hemingway Editor on AI-powered steroids. It integrates into practically every writing tool you could possibly want (except Scrivener) to keep check of your writing projects.
It’s great for practically all types of writing you would do in daily life, including emails, short-form content, business documents, documentation and much more.
The free Grammarly plan checks for spelling, grammar and punctuation. It also helps you with clarity by pulling you up when youre writing is not concise. And, it’ll assess your text for tone, telling you whether you sound formal, worried, forceful, excited an any other number of things.
Grammarly’s paid premium plan takes it up a few notches, adding suggestions for how to adjust your tone. It also scrutinises your choice of words, fluency, clarity and much more.
A free plagiarism checker will tell you whether your text contains similarities to writing found online or in academic papers. For paying customers, the plagiarism detector will also highlight which passages of text may be considered plagiarism.
The free plan will be more than enough for many writers, and if you think you need more, you can trial Grammarly Premium risk free to improve your blog right now.
There’s one type of writing where Grammarly doesn’t necessarily shine. And that’s for long-form content. As in, very long-form content like novels. For that, we recommend ProWritingAid.
As writing tools go, ProWritingAid is to authors what Grammarly is to copywriters. Just like Grammarly, ProWritingAid is an AI-powered grammar checker and text editor that integrates into more or less every writing tool you could possibly want. Including Scrivener (and Word, Google Docs, Chrome, Firefox, Edge and Safari).
ProWritingAid is my editing software of choice. Because it integrates with Scrivener, it can keep an eye on my book writing as I type away.
With ProWritingAid, you will get somewhere in the vicinity of 20 different tools to improve your writing, picking apart everything from your writing style and grammar to pacing, dialogue tags, alliteration and consistency.
A really cool feature, which I love, is that ProWritingAid will compare your writing style to that of world famous authors and copywriters like JK Rowling, Stephen King and Seth Godin and show you how you can write more (or less) like them.
The free version of ProWritingAid is word-count limited and will only work in your browser, while the paid version removes the word count limit, gives you access to integrations for Scrivener, Word and Google Docs, and you get access to the ProWritingAid writers resource library.
As a paying customer, you also get a few credits towards ProWritingAid’s plagiarism tool, which checks for similarities in your writing against online and offline content, including academic papers. But, if you’re a frequent user of that functionality you will need to pay anywhere between US$1 and US$0.20 per check, depending on how many credits you purchase at a time.
Is Microsoft Editor the Grammarly killer? I’m sure Microsoft hopes it is… To be honest, it probably isn’t. But, it’s included with Microsoft 365 products (such as Word and PowerPoint), so if you’re already a card carrying member of that club, then you might not need to join the Grammarly or ProWritingAid crowd as well.
Microsoft Editor runs a bunch of checks on your writing, such as spelling, grammar, clarity, conciseness, formality, punctuation and so on. It will adapt the checks depending on whether you’re putting together a casual, formal or professional piece of text.
There’s even a free similarity checker, which is a plagiarism detector of sorts that checks if your writing is similar to any online sources that Microsoft’s search engine, Bing, can find.
What are your favourite writing tools?
I either do or have used all of these writing tools for a long time, and they’ve helped me become a much better writer.
But how about you? What are your favourite tools of the writing trade? Let me know in the comments!