This is a guest post by Mike Hanski.
For a writer, time is money. Therefore, efficiency is a necessary and profitable quality. To be more efficient, you’ll probably need the help of various tools.
Tools to Improve Writing
Some of these tools might seem a little basic. In our technology driven world, you were probably expecting a list of killer apps. True, this list does contain a few of those. However, sometimes, the most basic tools that have withstood the test of time are the most helpful.
After all, if you can’t manage to compose fundamentally sound pieces, you really have nothing to offer!
If you don’t own an old school dictionary – you know, the type that was printed on actual paper – check out an online version. Really, any dictionary would do. You just need to be able to research the meaning of a word.
Many of us bloggers venture into unknown topic waters on occasion. We aren’t expected to know everything about everything. But we are expected to know where to find the information we don’t currently possess. If, in your research journey, you happen upon a word or term you don’t understand, a dictionary will be your best friend.
These days, a simple Google search will yield results on just about any topic you want. However, those sources aren’t always credible. And you need to sift through the junk to find the gems.
Rather than go through all that work, just go straight to a reliable source. Wikipedia is great, but not your only option. This particular link that we’ve recommended is a search engine of many quality sources – like encyclopedias, dictionaries, and thesauruses.
3. Style Guide
Quality writing often depends on a style guide. Again, any style guide will do. Some writers have their preferences and will stick by one guide forever. If you don’t have a favorite yet, consider one of these:
- National Geographic Style Manuel (free)
- Wikipedia Manual of Style (free)
- Yahoo! Style Guide (available for purchase)
- AP Stylebook (available for purchase)
Factbrowser claims to be a “research discovery engine.” You can find tons of quality information about current statistics, facts and trends in the following categories: technologies, topics, companies, sources, consumers, and regions.
5. Continuing Education
Even the most experienced, professional writer can learn a thing or two about the composition process. If you ever need to brush up on writing and language basics, check out these sources:
- Purdue University’s OWL (Online Writing Lab) – This website has more than 200 free writing resources and instructional materials for writers. They can help you navigate the research process, grammar and mechanics, English as a second language, punctuation and more. Plus, they have a few style guides available (if you didn’t like the previously suggested options).
- University of Illinois's Writer's Workshop – This is another all-inclusive training opportunity for writers. Most notable is the “common problems” section. They include instruction on things like dangling modifiers, homophones, run-on sentences, sentence fragments, active vs. passive voice, and more.
Tool to Create Images and Videos
These days, blog posts are all about the visuals. Sometimes, stock photos just won’t do the trick. You need something more creative, something more eye-catching, something more unique.
Have you ever looked at an impressive infographic and thought, “how on earth did they create that?!” Now, you can stun and wow your readers too! This is an easy-to-use tool to create infographics – no design experience necessary. There are even instructional videos to explain the process. With three simple steps, you can totally customize your infographic.
Videos are super popular these days. Many bloggers simply hunt for something appropriate on YouTube and slap it into the post. Wouldn’t it be so much cooler – and more personal – to include a video you created yourself?
Jing allows you to create short, 5-minute demo videos. Whatever you do on your screen, the viewer will be able to witness. You can even include audio.
If you don’t want to create a video, Jing is still helpful. This tool makes it super easy to create high-quality screen captures.
Tools to Improve SEO
If you don’t embrace SEO, no one will see that fabulous blog post you just spent hours creating. Here are a few tools to help you get noticed.
Google so politely did away with their Keyword Tool. Now, they offer a Keyword Planner. While this tool doesn’t have as many cool bells and whistles as the old program, it is still helpful.
This tool helps you create keyword groups. Rather than writing the word college a thousand times, you can use university, higher education, educational institutions, etc.
Sure, Keyword Planner is intended for the use of Adwords. But anyone can create an Adwords account – so anyone can use Keyword Planner.
9. Tag Crowd
According to their website, Tag Crowd allows you to “create your own tag cloud from any text to visualize word frequency.” We really couldn’t say it better than that.
10. WordPress SEO Plugin
If you haven’t already found an SEO plugin for WordPress, we can provide a few suggestions. These plugins help you craft a keyword rich URL, headline, and meta description. They also help analyze the in context keyword density.
These days, you could get labeled a spammer if you use the same keyword more than once. Ok, it isn’t quite that bad. But you really don’t want to keyword stuff your articles either. A thesaurus is a Hummingbird-friendly tool. Since the new algorithm update is used to determine how relevant an article is by analyzing the synonyms and related terms, you would be smart to bookmark your favorite thesaurus right now.
Tools to be More Productive
A perfectly crafted article with flawless grammar and SEO friendly keywords won’t ever come to fruition if you don’t manage your time wisely.
12. Google Calendar
Technically, any calendar will help you get organized. But since Google rules the world, we might as well suggest their products.
Use a time management tool to create to-do lists, schedule your events, and map out writing projects. You can even share your calendar if you are working closely with other writers or editors.
It is pretty much impossible to find a list of tools or apps that doesn’t include Evernote. The app can help you with just about every task under the sun – writing is no exception. Use it as a curation tool. Keep track of your notes as you conduct research.
No one wants their news feeds flooded with your self-promotional tweets or shares. Rather than post your content all at once, space it out. Schedule your social media posts to go live throughout the day or week.
15. Editorial Calendar
If you don’t have an editorial calendar, you must create one now. You’ll see a tremendous improvement in the quality of your writing – and the overall quality of your blog.
This calendar will guide your posting schedule. You’ll know what to write each day, who will write it (if you have a multi-author blog), and what topics will be discussed in the coming weeks. You can plan sequences and build on what has already been posted.
An editorial calendar will help with your research process too. If you know what your upcoming writing assignments are, you can be on the lookout for quality sources as you peruse the net each day. Bookmark something if you think it will be helpful in the near future.
Here are two options to consider:
Want to know what your target audience is really interested in? Want to know what is going viral at any given moment? Topsy allows you to analyze all social media platforms. This provides you with a time-sensitive insight into popular topics and trends. Simply type in a keyword or phrase and away you go.
17. Pomodoro Tracker
Most writing experts will recommend you chunk your tasks – take a large project and divide it into smaller, more manageable chunks. If you do this, it is wise to designate a time limit for each chunk. Otherwise, you may never make it to the next one.
A pomodoro tracker (otherwise known simply as a timer), helps you track how much time you are spending on a given task. My Tomatoes is a pretty stellar option. It gives you 25 minutes to complete a task and helps you track what you’ve accomplished.
Tools Suggested by You!
Now we are getting to the fun part. Suggestions! This list is by no means all-inclusive. We know there are other tools out there that can aid the blogging process. If you know of a tool we left off the list, let us know!
About the author
Mike Hanski is a custom paper writing expert and a content strategist for a company that provides online essay writing services – bid4papers.com. He likes to write about marketing and education related topics. Feel free to contact him on Google+ and Twitter.