This piece was originally published on Uncubed.
A persuasive email. A strongly-worded Facebook post. A cover letter that kills. Writing isn’t easy, but you don’t need to lock yourself in a room of your own for days on end to get it done. You can improve the quality and speed of your writing by downloading an app or two.
Keep it simple.
Is your flowery prose stopping you from clearly communicating?
The Hemingway app identifies hard to read sentences and suggests simpler alternatives; reveals passive writing; and highlights adverbs, which the website likens to “verbs’ kryptonite”.
The site and desktop app ($9) also judges reading level, but you’re not going for the highest number here. “When we say ‘grade level,’ we aren’t saying that’s who you’re writing for,” the Hemingway site explains. “In fact, Ernest Hemingway’s work scores as low as 5th grade, despite his adult audience. What our measurement actually gauges is the lowest education needed to understand your prose. Studies have shown the average American reads at a tenth-grade level– so that’s a good target.”
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It’s not you. It’s your grammar.
It might not be fair, but it’s a fact – you will be judged harshly for poor grammar. It doesn’t have to be this way: For about $140 a year, you can plug everything from emails and Tweets to your dating profile into Grammarly’s app. The app claims to check for 250 types of spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. Grammarly notes repetitive words and offers alternatives. It also checks for contextual spelling errors, or when a word is spelled correctly but is not the word you meant to write, which is just the sort of thing that Microsoft Word misses.
Writing doesn’t have to be done alone. Marketing materials, corporate content, and business presentations often require working with coworkers. When you’re launching a group project, Airstory is a good place to start. The tool makes it easy to plan and organize an outline and let various collaborators drag information, photos, research, and other information onto the project.
Can’t write unless there’s a gun to your head? Flowstate might be the next best(?) thing. The app bills itself as “the most dangerous app.” Writers set a timer and font and then just write. If you stop, your work is lost.
The app’s creators think our problem with writing stems from “a hive of distractions, multi-tasking, and cultural ADD. Many sit down to write, only to find hours vanish with nothing to show but a trail of browser tabs.” Sound familiar?
There are also several kinder gentler writing apps that help you get down to writing by diminishing diversions. Write!, the “distraction-free text editor” hides the rest of your desktop and leaves you with a simple word processing doc. Calmy Writer, a Chrome extension, even includes a “focus mode” option, which highlights only the paragraph you are currently editing. Focuswriter hides your desktop and allows users to set timers and goals.
However you plan to accomplish your next writing task, the best way to get it done, though, is just to start writing.