The American journalist Gene Fowler once remarked,
“Writing is easy. All you do is stare at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead.”
Make no mistake, though – Fowler was totally lying, and writing is really hard. So let’s enlist the help of our robot overlords in order to make it a little easier.
Today I’ll share 15 apps and websites that might help you become a better writer. Some are huge, multi-faceted programs, while others are more single-purpose and can help with organizing research, planning, gaining motivation, or editing.
If you’d like even more resources to help with other aspects of your education, you’ll find even more websites, apps, and tools over at the Resources page.
If you’re unable to see the video above, you can view it on YouTube.
- Coggle – a free mind-mapping tool that can help you organize ideas.
- Storyline Creator – a mapping tool that’s built around individual characters and the flow of events in a story.
- Evernote – my second brain. Pretty much everything I write starts out as a note here. Here’s another article I wrote with additional Evernote tips.
- Scrivener – a full-fledged application for writing a novel. This is what I finished writing 10 Steps to Earning Awesome Gradeswith.
- Novlr – a new alternative to Scrivener. It seems like it has a nicer design, but fewer features. I found some recommendations for it on the NaNoWriMo forums.
- Byword – a minimalist Markdown editor for OS X. You don’t need to know Markdown to use it… but Markdown is really easy to learn.
- Twinword Writer – a tool with a built-in thesaurus that suggests alternative words when you pause in your writing.
- Write or Die – an app that will punish you if you don’t keep writing. Punishments can range from annoying noises to “Kamikaze Mode”, which starts erasing your writing!
- Written? Kitten! – a more positive take on the Write or Die concept; instead of punishing you, it rewards you with pictures of kittens every 100 words.
- 750words – the name describes it pretty well; this is a site that can help you build a daily writing habit. It’s got pretty cool stat-tracking as well.
- DailyPage – a site that gives you a different writing prompt (e.g. Write about your favorite leader) every day.
- Mendeley – I’m not a grad student, but I’d use this if I was. It’s a free tool that can help you manage research documents and PDFs.
- editMinion – a tool that can analyze your writing and pick out weak and over-used words. It can also tell you if your sentences are too short or long.
- Coffitivity – plays coffee shop noises to give you a nice working atmosphere – a good alternative to white noise generators.
- Brain.fm – a web app that uses AI to generate music that’s supposed to help you increase your focus and attention. The site even has research to back up their claims. I’ve tested it a few times, and while I’m not sure if the music is truly working or just providing a placebo effect yet, I will way that it’s pretty darn good music for working.
By the way, if Brain.fm’s style of music isn’t for you, then you might enjoy my Ultimate Study Music Playlist on YouTube. I add new songs to it often.
Lastly, if you haven’t heard it, you might enjoy the CIG podcast episode where I break down how I wrote my 27,000 word book.
Got other recommendations that I didn’t include here? Share them in the comments!
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6 Best Tools for Editing College Papers
A good college paper has two requirements: good research and good writing. While there aren’t many tools available to do the reading and research for you, the Web abounds with editing tools. With so much help out there, there’s no reason your papers should contain grammar or spelling errors. Many of the tools go beyond that and check for ways to enhance style and vocabulary. Some not only help edit your work and check for plagiarism, but actually teach you to become a better writer. Whether you’re looking for something that will enhance your writing skills or you’re in need of some editing SOS, here are some of the best-rated editing tools for academic papers: PaperRater is a free service that uses algorithms to analyze the following areas for your paper: plagiarism, spelling and grammar, style, word choice, readability, title For best results, choose the type of paper (lab report, thesis/dissertation, essay, resume, etc.) and your education level (high school, undergraduate, masters, etc.). It also offers a vocabulary building tool to enhance your vocabulary skill level. Scribendi is a favorite of many students and a reputable editing resource. The message on their website says a lot: “Trusted with more than 752 million words.” They offer different services in a variety of price ranges. For college papers, “Essay editing” and “Essay proofreading” are the categories that best apply. Prices are tiered depending on how much of a time crunch you’re in. If you’ve only got 8 hours until deadline, editing a 1,000 word essay will run you $60. If you can wait a week, the price drops to $28. Their services are available 24/7. Their staff will check for the standard aspects such as: word choice, clarity, tone, sentence structure, spelling, grammar. They also offer suggestions on how you can make your argument stronger and how to improve organization and structure. JetWriters is a high-quality service that offers professional help with essay writing and editing. Whenever you get stuck writing your paper or just need comments from experienced editors, you can contact their team. Simply pick the type of your paper and indicate the deadline – one of the main advantages mentioned on their homepage is that this service provides “express writing solutions”. So, what software can be better than recommendations from live professional editors? ProWritingAid improves your text by doing the following:
- highlights passive verbs and adverbs;
- identifies repetitive phrases;
- removes overly complicated, dense or abstract phrasing;
- eliminates cliches;
- corrects spelling and grammar errors;
- checks for plagiarism;
- improves readability.
There are three versions of their editing services:
- Free – allows you 19 free reports with a maximum of 3000 words;
- Premium – allows you interactive editing, compatible with MS Word and Google Docs, no word limit for $35/year;
- Premium+ – also gives you 50 plagiarism checks for $40/year.
StyleWriter is an editing software whose claim to fame is that it goes beyond spellcheck and grammar and gives you the instruments to become a better writer. This program requires a commitment on your end to want to write better and not just cut and paste your text into a program that will fix things for you. It’s a step-by-step process that helps you define and polish your writing style. One of their unique features is the ability to program it to check for specific problem areas that you know you need to work on. They have three editions, Starter ($90), Standard ($150) and Professional ($190) with various perks for each. Their websites recommends the Standard edition for college students. Grammarly claims to be “the world’s most accurate grammar checker” and has won accolades from academics and professional writers. So, it’s worth a look. Some of its features include:
- a scan of 250 different grammar rules for your text;
- a spellchecker that takes context into consideration;
- a vocabulary builder feature with suggestions for word choice.
It also has a Plagiarism Checker that analyzes your text next to 8 billion web pages so you can be sure your paper is plagiarism-free. And there’s a Citation Generator that cites your sources in MLA, APA or Chicago for you. Best of all? It’s free. Maybe you’re looking to enhance your writing skills. Or maybe you’re just looking to make the deadline without any typos. Whatever you editing needs, these services will help you get your paper on time and in excellent condition. Cari Bennette is a ghost writer, editor and freelance blogger. Cari loves to share her writing advice, so check her Twitter.
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