The Best 13 Resources for Improving Your Online Writing

 

Upgrade your online writing with this eclectic array of resources, built to level-up everything from your vocabulary to your organisational skills. We’ve included tools relating to all sorts of online writing, from emails to articles, to make this guide useful to as many writers as possible.

Screenfly, by Quirktools

When you’re writing for the web, you’re arguably writing for three mediums at once: desktop, tablet and smartphone.

The web app Screenfly lets you switch between these different displays of your site from the comfort of your desktop browser (provided your website is responsive). Simply type in the URL where you’ve posted your content and flick between the desktop, tablet, smartphone and TV options to gain an insight into how your copy renders on different devices. For those who want to venture further down the responsive rabbit hole, Screenfly even lets you choose from a range of device models and screen sizes within each device category.

We’ve placed this tool right at the top of the list, because we think it’s all too easy for copywriters to forget the variety of contexts in which their work will appear. Reviewing your published work with Screenfly or another responsive viewer will help you bear this important point in mind, and this in turn can shape the form, tone and even the content of your output.

Noisli

It takes more than just a talented writer to produce good copy; the writer’s environment is imperative too. Just ask Virginia Woolf.

The Noisli web app creates a pleasant and productive digital writing environment using a combination of ambient sounds like birdsong, waves, and the chugging of an old locomotive. You can dive straight into this assuredly work-friendly soundscape by heading over to the Noisli site, plugging in your headphones and choosing your sounds – there are presets for productivity and relaxation, or you can create your own mix by toggling different sound types and changing their respective volumes.

Noisli also features a distraction-free text editor tool, which you can access after signing up for a free account.

Thesaurus.com

If you’re a writer, people will often remind you of the value of using a thesaurus – and to some extent, they’re right to do so.
A thesaurus – like Thesaurus.com – is the ideal tool for finding those pesky words that you can’t quite call to mind. If you can remember the meaning of a word but not the word itself, type some synonyms or near-synonyms into Thesaurus.com and there’s a good chance you’ll find it.

While thesauri can be a great help in navigating your way to words you can’t fully remember, they are often misused as a tool for substituting simple words with wordier ones. This can lead to imprecise or irregular usage of words, and inconsistent tone-of-voice. In the worst cases, writers who use this approach end up sounding a bit like a sixth-form English Lit student, or worse still, Russell Brand.
Here’s a textbook account of how not to use a thesaurus, from Daily Writing Tips.

Dictionary.com

We needn’t write an awful lot about this one, as we all know what a dictionary is. Suffice to say that if you encounter a word you don’t understand while researching, you should look it up. Some of the lexophiles amongst you will already do this routinely.

Hemingway editor

Some forms of online writing call for simplicity. Short, simple sentences. Clear meanings. Hemingway-style.

The Hemingway online editor is a superb tool for writers who want to simplify their writing. Type or paste your copy into the Hemingway text editor, then switch to “Edit” to see the app’s critique. Adverbs, uses of passive voice, complex sentences and challenging phrasings will all be highlighted for your attention, providing insight into the things you can change to simplify your writing.

Here at the Target Internet blog, we don’t write especially simply, because we tend to discuss involved subjects for an educated audience. However, other types of writing (B2C copywriting in particular) demand a more simplistic approach. If this applies to whatever it is you’re working on, we suggest you raise a mojito in the great man’s honour and head over to Hemingway.

Goodemailcopy.com

Whilst some of the best copy out there breaks the mould, most fits it instead.
Goodemailcopy.com is a brilliantly simple site where copywriters from a host of prominent brands freely upload their marketing email copy. You can search to find emails with different functions, or you can choose from a range of tags like ‘Welcome’, ‘Thank you’ and ‘Feedback’ to see how other writers are approaching the same email copywriting challenges your brand is faced with. Hopefully you’ll find some inspiration to take away and feed into your own writing.

You can get your own emails added to the goodemailcopy.com directory by mailing them to goodcopy@frontapp.com. If nothing else, it’s another way to get your brand out there.

Books

When was the last time you used a book to research a piece of web content? In fact, have you ever used a book to research a piece of web content?

For many paid-by-the-word content writers, hitting the books doesn’t seem to make sense when relevant research materials lie just a Google search away. But what these writers gain in expedience, they often lose in terms of the uniqueness of their content. When your research is only a few pages of search results deep, chances are there are other people working with the very same research material on their own content. Given the growing importance of originality to search visibility, that’s going to become more and more of a handicap to online writers.

Thankfully (for those who are willing to take their research a little deeper), there’s an unprecedented wealth of valuable information stored in books that can help you stand out from the pack.

One of the innumerable great things about books is the fact that much of the information currently in-print isn’t online yet, especially not in searchable form. Try using a combination of material from books and online research to inform some of your web content – you may be surprised at just how good it feels to breathe new, digital life into some wise, old ink.

750 Words

Sorry to put this so bluntly, but the great challenge of writing for a living isn’t about creativity; it’s about discipline. Speaking from experience, straying from the writing task at hand and watching reruns of The Chase on Challenge TV instead is a terribly easy trap to fall into. 750 Words exists to help us writers stop procrastinating and get the job done.

This interesting app is centred around the practice of writing ‘Morning Words’ – that’s around three pages (or 750 words) of content on whatever subject you like, to be written daily. The idea is that observing this daily writing ritual will get your creative juices flowing, spurring you on to use the rest of the day productively.

In practical terms, 750 Words provides a simple writing environment that clocks your wordcount and auto-saves as you go. It also features a host of interesting reporting tools that provide insight into your productivity over time, your prevailing moods and topics, and even the mindset you’re in while you write.

Though it’s a little less directly related to online writing than the other tools we’ve featured, 750 Words undoubtedly has the potential to make you more committed and self-aware as a writer.

Google AdWords Keyword Planner

Keyword Planner isn’t strictly a tool for writers – but we should all be using it to help make our content search-engine-friendly.

As the search/PPC marketers amongst you will know, Keyword Planner provides AdWords users with search volume data on certain keywords, which can either be inferred from a website or entered manually by the user. We can use this functionality to look up the search volume around the keywords used in our content, and perhaps around similar search phrases which we might consider using instead. Finding search volume around your keywords will help you to ensure your content is geared towards phrases and semantic fields which are statistically likely to attract traffic.

Headline Analyser

There are loads of headline analysers out there – and many of them can provide fascinating insights into the effectiveness of your headlines, on criteria such as emotional resonance, search engine friendliness and click-ability.

Don’t think of a headline analyser’s feedback as a final judgement on your headline – the very best headlines are original, and could miss prescribed quality criteria as a result. Instead, use the feedback as a spur to generally think more deeply about how you write your headlines.

Headline analysers take a wide range of analytical approaches, so be sure to try a few out to find one that provides feedback that interests you. We’re fans of the Advanced Marketing Institute’s headline analyser, which works out the percentage of words used which possess ‘Emotional Marketing Value’ (you should be aiming for 50-75%). It also assesses the predominant emotional classification of your headline.

For example, we typed the headline “Writer Tentatively Critiques Marketing Headline Analyser” into the tool, and received the following results:

EMV words score: 66.67%
Predominant emotion classification: Intellectual

Hey, we’ll take it.

Yoast SEO plugin for WordPress

As its name suggests, Yoast’s plug-in is useful for checking your WordPress content’s search engine-friendliness. However, what really interests us is another of its features: a readability scorer.

Like Hemingway, the Yoast SEO plugin scores your content on its readability, based on the complexity of your writing; but unlike Hemingway, it integrates neatly with the WordPress CMS – a real selling-point.

Not all web content needs to be easy to read, but much of it does. Consider the fact that the average Brit has a reading age of 9, and the content of The Guardian is geared towards a reading age of 14. It’s better to over-simplify than to confuse.

Trello

We were tempted to write about the virtues of using pen-and-paper notes here – but as a matter of fact, this app might well be the superior option.

Trello is a web app that helps you organise your work (and life) with familiar tools like checklists and notes, transposed appealingly onto a digital format. You can install the app as a browser extension for individuals, allowing easy access to your notes whenever you browse.

Whilst Trello’s potential uses are numerous, we think this is a particularly handy tool for noting down content inspirations and prospective sources while you browse. The option to add notes makes this approach far superior to simply bookmarking pages with your browse.

Tap into online communities

Not even the cleverest of algorithms could match the honest advice of an expert.

With a little digging you’ll easily find online communities dedicated to copywriting and journalism – forums, Facebook groups, hashtags and so on. If you’re unsure on how to approach a certain piece of writing, or even which phrase to use in a certain situation, you could do far worse than to reach out to the members of these communities and ask for advice.

We can recommend The Copywriter Facebook group, whose members were only too happy to suggest writing tools for inclusion in this article – thanks guys!

 

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