Writing on a computerIt’s not too hard to find a word processing program these days that comes with a built-in spell checking utility. In fact, many of them will check your spelling in real time as you type out those words on the screen. That’s very handy, but spelling all your words correctly is only one small part of what makes for good writing. If I were to say that their are many other parts, the spell checker wouldn’t pick that up as a mistake.

To further clarify and improve what you are trying to communicate, it could be a good idea to use some of the writing apps listed below. They go beyond simple dictionary-fueled spelling to explore improved grammar, choosing more common words and employing simpler language. After all, the goal is you want to be understood, right?

XKCD Simple Writer

Is your writing comically simple?

Is your writing comically simple?

Yes, this is the same xkcd responsible for the hilarious stick figure webcomic. If your goal is to ensure your writing is understood by as broad an audience as possible, it’s in your best interest to pare down on your vocabulary and stick with words that more people will know. The XKCD Simple Writer gives you a text field where you can type directly or you can copy and paste your content. Once you do, any words that are beyond the 1,000 most commonly used words in English will be highlighted in red and will be displayed in the section at the bottom of the page. Avoiding the term “social networks” or “social media” might be hard when you’re talking about Twitter or Facebook, but at least Simple Writer will let you know those words are hardly common.

Word Counter

Write to a sixth-grade reading comprehension level

Write to a sixth-grade reading comprehension level

Whether you’re tasked with writing a college research paper or you’re putting together a business proposal, you may be charged with sticking within a particular word count or word count range. Most word processors have the ability to count the number of words in your current document, but handy writing apps like Word Counter take that further. You not only get to see the number of characters, sentences and paragraphs, but perhaps more interestingly, you can also check the calculated reading level, reading time and speaking time, the last of which is perfect for writing speeches. The keyword density table can be remarkably useful too.

Expresso

Caffeinate your writing for a quick pick-me-up

Caffeinate your writing for a quick pick-me-up

As much as it grinds me gears when people refer to the coffee product as “expresso” instead of “espresso,” Expresso in this list of writing apps is much more potent. After entering the text that you’d like to check, you hit the “analyze text” button in the top-right corner. You can then selectively highlight portions of the text with filler words, weak verbs, negations per sentence, passive voice per sentence and more. This breaks down the areas of your document that may need some cleaning up for clarity, brevity and robustness.

Grammarly

One of the most popular writing apps around

One of the most popular writing apps around

Perhaps one of the best known writing apps on the Internet today is Grammarly, the objective of which is to help you “become a better writer.” As its name implies, this tool will scour through your writing for grammar mistakes, as well as areas that may not necessarily be errors but could still be improved. What’s great is that many of your mistakes will not only be highlighted, but Grammarly will explain why they are mistakes in the first place. You can even use Grammarly across the web with the Chrome extension.

Hemingway Editor

Embolden your writing with Hemingway

Embolden your writing with Hemingway

To be the best, sometimes you need to copy the best. While it may not help you author the next The Old Man and the Sea, the Hemingway Editor will make your writing “bold and clear.” It’s similar, in some ways, to Expresso in that it highlights stylistic choices you ought to make. It looks for sentences that are too hard, too dense, or too meandering. If you have a sentence that packs in too much information, it’ll tell you to split it up. The Hemingway App also looks for unnecessarily complicated words or where you could replace passive voice with active voice.

Image credit: Desi / Flickr

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