Do you find yourself constantly battling to nail down that headline or strike just the right tone? Me, too. But after scouring the internet and trying out many apps, I’ve found five free powerful writing tools that improve the quality of my work every time.
I use these apps every day to plan, write, and edit. They make my life easier and hone my skills as both a writer and an editor.
And today, I’m sharing my secret stash of powerful writing tools in hopes they help you to achieve your writing goals, too.
And it gets better …
You can get started using them right away for free!
Let’s get into it!
5 Free Writing Tools You Can Start Using Now
Evernote is my go-to app for every note I take and every plan I make. I made you think of Sting, didn’t I? Sorry!
Evernote is a cloud-based software service designed for creating, organizing, and storing various media files.
How I Use It
I use this app to take meeting notes, plan article outlines, record hyperlinks, and file away articles for reference.
It’s useful for various aspects of my business (budgeting, planning, marketing, writing, client correspondence) and personal life.
Here’s a snapshot of my interface. You can see that I have different notebooks for various topics, with corresponding note pages that live within.
You can download Evernote to both your computer and mobile. As you browse, you click on the icon to save the article to the corresponding notebook.
Just writing this post, I’ve filed away five web pages that I will return to later.
The key is to be very detailed in your filing system. For example, within WRITING, I have notebooks solely dedicated to headlines, case studies, transition words, power words, expert tips, etc.
Then within my themed notebook, I create relevant notes. In other words, one entry is not a jumble of tasks, research, hyperlinks, schedules, etc.
The app makes this sorting system easy by offering templates such as To-Do lists, Calendars, Planners, Meeting Notes, and one of my favourites – Reflect and Correct.
As a rule, I now create a notebook for every new writing assignment.
If you’re like me, you might enjoy (the time-waster) of customizing notes to your colour preferences. There are many fun non-work-related categories to choose from, including gift tracker, menu planning, and party planning.
When I first started my freelance writing business, I focussed on writing and largely neglected the most crucial step for writers – organizing.
So, don’t be like me! Use an app of your choosing to plan your outlines and record your notes in one place.
Next up in my stash of writing tools is an editing program called Grammarly.
Grammarly is a free digital editing and writing tool. It uses Artifical Intelligence and natural language processing to edit the text you plug into the program.
As a professional freelance writer, I benefit greatly from another set of eyes on my work (even if they are A.I. “eyes”). Plus, my work has to be flawless before sending it to the client, so this is an extra check.
Is it as good as a real-live person? No. But it is the next best thing.
Features I Like
The features that I particularly like about this writing tool include:
- Overall score. Based on five categories – Correctness, Clarity, Engagement and Delivery – it pops out an overall rating.
- General Audience Readability alert – this check highlights sentences that a general audience would find challenging to read. As a writer, I appreciate the reminder.
- Commas – Grammarly is comma-obsessed. I am not too bad in the grammar department, but this program is a stickler for commas! And the corrections improve the readability of my work.
- It takes the initiative to suggest rewrites – the program will reword sentences to correct passive voice or unclear passages!
- You can download your revised version, so you’re not toggling back and forth to edit between a word doc and the app.
- As you edit, you can see how your overall rating changes. There are also sliding scales based on the categories that change as you edit.
- It provides you with a breakdown of pertinent information such as word count, readability, text score, vocabulary, etc.
- Grammarly sends you a weekly Report Card, too. Gold star!
Opportunities for Improvement
While I love Grammarly, there are some drawbacks:
- Type of Writing – there is no format option (article, blog post, social media caption). For example, blog posts can include sentence fragments, ellipsis, and incomplete sentences at times, as blogging is not a traditional form of writing.
- While there are options to choose from in terms of tone and domain, the program follows strict grammatical rules, except for allowing causal language. Again, there are some things that an actual human editor would understand better than a robot.
- Incorrect substitutions – it regularly makes suggestions that don’t make sense in the context of the sentence. When editing this post, for example, it recommended replacing “notebook” with “laptop.” This error is a minor issue that you can reject as you go through your document, but Grammarly could stand to improve upon this function.
- It’s tempting to write drafts in the program, which is probably the worst thing a writer could do. That little grader on the side became my north star. Instead of getting everything down in a document and then editing, I was editing as I went.
DO NOT MAKE THIS MISTAKE! You will end up disrupting your natural writing flow, and your task will take you twice as long.
Trust me; it’s just as satisfying to edit the final draft.
And remember, despite how well this program works, nothing beats a human, or a final draft printed out for one last pass over.
Now, could you use a writing tool to help you create compelling headlines?
Look no further than the section below.
#3. CoSchedule Headline Analyzer
One of the more challenging aspects of creating high-ranking blog posts is click-worthy headlines, without them reading as mere clickbait.
Headlines can be a real slog, especially when you are trying to be original and compelling.
So feedback is a gift, and why I love CoSchedule.
CoSchedule offers a free headline analyzer that helps you understand the formula behind a successful headline. As a result, you are better poised to write one.
Features I Like
Here’s what I like about it:
- Overall Grade – You plug in your headline, and it spits out a grade on a scale of one – 100. The higher the grade, the better your headline. Acceptable scores rank 70 and higher.
- There are four main areas of analysis – Common, Uncommon, Emotional and Powerful. When you score well in any of these areas, it notes the words that ranked, which proves helpful as you work to improve your headline writing skills.
- Headline Length – It indicates whether it’s too long or short based on SEO.
- It shows you what readers will most likely catch of your headline, namely the first three and last three words. If these don’t appeal to your target audience, then you probably won’t reach them.
- It shows you how your headline will appear in an email subject line or Google search.
- It keeps a running log of all the headlines you’ve entered and their scores. Just one minor change to your headline can alter its effectiveness drastically.
Before I discovered this analyzing tool, I didn’t think of headlines in these terms.
With practice, I’ve come to write my headlines with these components in mind, and I’ve noticed impressive results.
At this point, we’ve looked at writing tools that will help you organize, write and edit.
Let’s move on to an SEO app useful for beginners.
#4. WordPress Plugin of Yoast
I decided to go with WordPress for my website, mainly because of all the plugins offered. Did I know what these plugins were at the time? No way. Do I now? No way.
But the SEO plugin called Yoast came up consistently in my research as the SEO go-to, and it is compatible with WordPress.
Features I Like
Here’s what I like about it, especially for people with limited knowledge of SEO:
- It is very instructive. Not only does it identify issues that will affect your SEO ranking, it tells you how to fix them.
- Snippet preview feature – shows you how the title, URL and meta description will appear on the search engine results page.
- Internal links – this is an excellent reminder to link to work on your site. After all, the longer a visitor stays on your website, the better you rank.
- External links – ideally, you link to your bylined articles on external sites. But you can also link to other sites to back up your blog posts. External links prove your work is well-researched and credible.
- It gives you overall scores for readability and SEO, with specific suggestions as to how to improve your ranking. See red and green happy faces.
- Client work. While Yoast lives on my website, I plug in freelance writing assignments for analysis before submitting them.
- While some clients prefer to do the SEO themselves, you must be familiar with the theory and provide your client with a publishable piece of work.
Please note that the topic of Yoast is a beast. This section merely touches on it, but for freelance writing, these are its most beneficial features.
If you’re looking for a comprehensive post about Yoast, a quick Google search will result in hundreds.
Finally, we come to the last of my favourite writing tools that will up your graphics game tenfold.
The power of imagery can’t be understated. More than a pretty picture, images are a vital part of your brand and marketing strategy, including blog posts.
This fact is even more true in the digital world where media-heavy web pages replace real-life interactions. If you pair a striking image or video with your article, chances are higher it will get read.
Canva is a free app you can use to create, design, download and share graphics. There are a free version and a paid version for those who want to up their game and save time creating images.
Features I Like
Here is what I like about the free version:
• It is super simple to use. Like drag and drop simple. Simple = fast. We all know how much time creating images can swallow up, especially if you’re not artistically inclined.
• On-brand. Sites like Unsplash and Pixlr are great if you don’t have the budget for images, but let’s face it, they stick out like a sore thumb on your site. By creating images in your taste, they will naturally come out looking as if they belong on your marketing platforms.
• Options. There are so many options for customizing text, images, and backgrounds for various platforms. The app offers templates sized to fit everything from an Instagram post to a Pinterest pin.
• Set your templates once, rinse and repeat.
• Designed by experts. Don’t have the budget for a graphic designer? Why not use the free ones available to you?
There are a few drawbacks built into the app to level you up to a paid subscription. I did invest in the pro version because I am a very visual person. I also appreciate the stellar impact images have on branding.
IN SUMMARY – 5 FREE AND POWERFUL WRITING TOOLS
I’ve let you in on my secret stash of writing tools. These free apps have helped me to up my writing game and produce better content for my clients.
Try them out and see if they work for you.