The 23 Suggestions to Improve Your Writing Skills
Words are hard.
Whether you’re a published author or just getting started with blogging, it’s not always easy to string words together in a way that makes sense, sounds good and makes the reader feel something.
But every marketer should be able to write — and, more importantly, every marketer can write. It’s just a matter of finding the writing environment that works best for you, expanding your vocabulary, asking for feedback (and listening to it), and practicing.
Luckily, there are a slew of great tools you can use to help improve your writing. Check out the list below, and feel free to add the most helpful ones you use in the comment section.
The Content Ideator is an easy-to-use topic generator tool that’s similar to Portent’s Content Idea Generator. Input your noun of choice, and it will show you all the results related to your keyword. You can view up to 90 pages worth of topics according to your search.
For example, if you enter the keyword “writer’s block,” the Content Ideator will generate more than a hundred potential topics such as:
Writer’s Block — How To Overcome A Writer’s Greatest Curse
Writing Prompts To Overcome Writer’s Block Considered — Case Study
How to Write an Outline: I’ve Got Writer’s Block and No Time Until My Deadline!
Check out other tools first unless you’re up for digging to find the topic that speaks to you.
2) Portent’s Content Idea Generator
This tool is a piece of cake to use, and its chalkboard background makes it fun to play with. Simply add the keyword, and hit the “enter” button. You get one title and content suggestion each time you click.
This generator has some personality, adding witty comments and jokes in bubbles alongside the topic suggestions. If the title isn’t what you expected or seems silly, you can refresh it as many times as you wish to find a gem. (The only difference between a content idea generator and a blog topic generator is that the former lets you fill in only one keyword per search while the latter allows you to enter three.)
3) 750 Words
Another way to practice your writing is to do a “brain dump” exercise using a tool like 750 Words. “Brain dumping” means getting all that stuff in your head down on paper — without having to worry about incomplete ideas, tangents, and private stuff.
It’s not blogging or status updating — it’s just you, writing whatever you want on a totally private account, without ever having to title your content or tag topics or share with your friends.
What it does do is track your word count so you’re sure to write 750 words (about three pages of writing). Plus, it’s gamified, which makes it kind of fun: You get a point for writing anything at all, two points for writing 750 words or more, and more points if you write consistently. And every time you write, it’ll give you some cool statistics on how much time you spent writing, the feelings and themes of your words, and so on.
Publishing content on a consistent basis is crucial in the blogging world. Our own research concludes that companies that commit to regularly publishing quality content to their blogs tend to get the most website traffic and leads — and those results continue to pay out over time. Tools like Twords can help bloggers commit to writing consistently.
Twords calls itself “the app that nudges you to write.” It notifies you when you haven’t written in a while so you can keep yourself accountable — and even gives you the option to connect with others who will help keep you accountable. It also tracks your writing so you can start to see patterns for the days you’re blogging more versus less, and so on. Finally, it includes some cool resources like a prompt library and articles about habit formation, writing resources, and so on.
5) Swipe File
If you had asked you what a swipe file is, You would probably reply with something like this:
“Umm…does it have something to do with stealing?”
Swipe files aren’t stealing. In fact, they’re not even borrowing.
Basically, a swipe file is just a folder where you can curate cool stuff you come across, like advertisements, copy, emails, etc. “Save things that make you click, sign up, laugh, or go ‘whoa!'” says the post. The purpose? To flip through it for inspiration.
Christopher Penn defines a swipe file as being “a collection of stuff that has worked, arranged in such a way to inspire you and give you future ideas.” Sounds simple enough, right? Actually, we put together swipe files all the time without knowing it.
Brides put together binders full of pictures and wedding planning articles. Interior designers create mood boards. If you’ve ever used Polyvore or a similar site, you’ve (in a way) made a swipe file. By putting together resources that spark new ideas, you’re doing yourself a favor in the long run. No marketer, copywriter, or creative professional can go through his or her career without getting stuck. It just happens. We’re human and when the idea well runs dry, we have a tendency to give up.
The importance of a swipe file isn’t its size or its diversity of material. It’s the swipe file’s ability to help you through creative roadblocks.
As SEO copywriters and marketers, we can keep a swipe file filled with headlines, social media campaigns, blog posts, landing pages, lead generation techniques, calls to action…if it helps you write great copy, include it there. It’s that simple.
In terms of putting together your own swipe file, there are many tools that you can use. Personally, here’s what I use or have used to put together my own collection of inspiration:
I have three techniques I use for my Swipe Files
1. I copy the article, ad, blog, whatever and paste it into a MS Word document then save it to my dungeon of articles and it is huge. But remember text based files can be searched. I use UltraFileSearch
2. I also keep track of reference and interesting sources, blogs, news feeds to curate content with my online bookmarking service @ Delicious as well as my browser’s bookmarks.
3.I use Pinterest as another alternative swipe depository and it also gives me brand credibility and SEO juice.
6) Help me Write
If you can’t decide what you want to write, let the community make that decision for you. Simply, add your ideas, share them, ask your friends what they’d like to read about, and write and publish! By knowing what your audience wants to read before you even start writing, ensures you’ll have readers as soon as you hit publish and will save you time.
Writing efficiently and organizing well is a part of writing well. Use a tool like Trello to collect content ideas, assign them to different members of your team, attach due dates, collaborate with other team members, track their progress, and move them from conception to completion.
Putting the edits you made to the forefront of its interface, Draft shows you where and what you’ve changed, giving you the option of accepting it or reverting it back to what it was originally. What’s even more useful is the Mark Draft feature that saves that version of your work as you go.
With many other options that make iCloud and Google Docs seem dated, this tool can help you write and share your writing for other presentations not limited to blogging.
Quora is a great place to go for crowdsourced answers if you want to reach outside your network. Simply search for a keyword, follow topics related to the topics you’re interested in, and/or post your own questions.
If you’re writing something that includes an interview with someone else, oTranscribe is a great tool that’ll make the transcription process much less painful — allowing more time for your own writing and analysis.
It’s a web app for transcribing interviews created by Elliott Bentley, a graphics writer at Wall Street Journal. The audio player is integrated with the editor meaning you won’t have to click back and forth. You can pause, play, rewind, and fast-forward using keyboard shortcuts. Every second, it automatically saves the transcription to your browser’s storage. You can export it to plain text or Google Docs.
Ready to start writing? Here’s a tool that’ll boost your productivity. A study out of the University of Chicago found that a moderate level of ambient noise, or “white noise,” helps people be more creative. While there are a lot of white noise generators out there, Cofftivity is my favorite. It offers non-stop café background sounds at varying intensities, from “Morning Murmur” and “University Undertones” to “Lunchtime Lounge” and “Brazil Bistro.”
12) Tomato Timer
If you like to write with a little pressure (or you’re just on deadline), then Tomato Timer is useful (and free). This tool offers a “Pomodoro” option, which refers to the Pomodoro technique: a time management technique created by Francesco Cirillo based on periods of distraction-free work followed by short breaks — which is supposed to be optimal for productivity.
A clean and minimalist approach to where you write. Blocking out visual distractions, with features to stylize the text, add hyperlinks, and block quotes.
14) Power Thesaurus
Power Thesaurus isn’t just any thesaurus: It’s a crowdsourced thesaurus that provides alternative word choices from a community of writers. The word suggestions are totally original, and are based on the editorial work of a team of writers and years’ worth of reviews visitors’ suggestions.
15) Twinword Writer
Here’s another help that’ll help you if you get stuck on a word and don’t want to leave your browser or skim through synonyms. If you type using Twinword Writer, it’ll automatically sense if you pause because you’re stuck on a word. Then, it’ll analyze the context of your writing and open a box suggesting alternate words you can use. You can also click any word to get suggestions. A better writing environment for delivering your ideas and thoughts in the most suitable vocabulary. Everyone from journalists, bloggers, marketers, to amateur cooks, students, and daily writers improve their writing.
Letting you read an article one word at a time, Squirt enhances your reading speed. You can also use this tool to improve your grammar and spelling errors, and improve your brain’s transition between flow of thought and writing output.
While you’re writing, you may find you need to support your ideas with research. Tools like Factbrowser search facts, stats, reports, studies, and surveys. Their research covers a wide range of topics, including social networks, gaming, specific industries, holidays, coupons, marketing, and so many more.
You may also find you want to include a quote from a famous author, politician, celebrity, or any public figure to strengthen your writing or inspire your readers. BrainyQuote is a library filled with millions of interesting quips that you can search by a speaker (from Aristotle to Dr. Seuss to Audrey Hepburn) or by topic (like peace, success, leadership, and more).
Once the actual writing part is done, it’s time to edit. While human editors will be able to catch most grammatical errors, editing tools like Grammarly are great tools for triple-checking before you press “publish” or “send.”
Writing for many is a challenge, even for me. It takes focus, determination, and some confidence. But it is the foundation of the Internet, you know information.
I put this list together to help make it a little less stressful. It should remain a challenge because we should embrace challenges. That is what makes us, especially as an alpha Entrepreneur, right?
Alan Zibluk Market Hive Founding Member — http://markethive.com/alzibluk