Are you a good writer or a GREAT writer?
Few of us would boldly claim to be a “great” writer, but many of us would make a claim of “average” or “good.”
As most writers know, it all comes down to how you define those broad-range adjectives. You might be very good at painting a picture with words, but terrible with punctuation. Someone else might have all the punctuation rules down pat, but has a habit of writing long, run-on sentences.
When I started my career as a freelance writer four years ago, it had been decades since anyone had critiqued or read my writing, much less an editor or client. I needed some serious polishing of my writing skills. (And, to be honest, still need lots of help in certain areas.)
Becoming a PROFESSIONAL Writer
If you really want to make a career out of writing, like I did, you need to be willing to go back to school. No, you don’t need to sign up for a college English class or Journalism 101 (though that would certainly help you). Everything you need to polish your writing skills (including college level assistance) is available right online. You just need to make use of it.
To make it easier for you, I’m going to share the five tools that I’ve found the most useful in improving my writing skills. (Make sure and read #4 to see why it’s my favorite!)
Top Online Tools to Transform Your Writing from Good to Excellent
1. Purdue Online Writing Lab (OWL)
Purdue University has provided access to one of the most thorough and helpful writing resources available on the Internet. From the very basic (preparing for your GED) to distinctions between style manuals and how to cite sources, this website has most answers you’re looking for when it comes to proper writing. One of my favorite pages on the site is actually the answer page for the GED grammar quiz. It shows you how to correctly use commas, semi-colons, quotation marks and homonyms. It’s great for a quick review. Many of my editors recommend this site to their writers.
2. Daily Writing Tips
This site is a little less intimidating than Purdue OWL and provides some writing resources tied to specific types of writing, such as business writing and fiction writing. Since this site is in a blog format, you can subscribe to the blog and have their tips and lessons come right to your inbox. The blog categories and search box make it easy to find answers to specific questions on grammar, punctuation, spelling or any of your other writing questions. I have this on my Favorites list for quick access.
This is another site that can really help you find the mistakes in your writing and help you learn how to correct. It does, however, require a paid subscription to use it. You simply paste your article into the grammar checker, tell it whether your writing is casual, business or academic and push the button! It quickly scans through your entire article and marks all the spelling, grammar and syntax errors it finds. As you go through each one, it will tell you why it believes you’ve made an error and how you should fix it.
Grammarly, unfortunately, just like MS Word, does not always catch all the errors. Also, sometimes it says something is an error that isn’t. So, it can be helpful in some cases and harmful in others. When I first discovered it, I thought it would save me time by doing my editing for me. Wrong! I immediately started getting complaints from my clients. Apparently, I was a better editor than Grammarly. Still, Grammarly can be helpful in finding errors which you might miss in your own writing. On this article, it showed me two places where I left out articles and one misuse of a word.
4. Get Paid to Learn!
Now you know why I said that #4 was my favorite. Not only will this site help you improve your writing skills, you will get paid for all your practice lessons. The site I’m referring to is Textbroker. To be honest, they don’t advertise themselves as a site for improving your writing. It is a “broker” site for freelance writers. That means Textbroker pays the writers for the assignments written for clients through the site, and there are no costs for writers to use the site.
The learning part is what makes Textbroker so great. The editors at Textbroker review everything you write and give you feedback on what you need to improve on. They will usually point you to specific articles on their blog that address the specific mistakes you are making. My biggest two issues were commas and run-on sentences. If you’re uncertain of your writing skills, this is a great way to test them out and get paid (less than 2 cents a word) while your sharpen your skills.
5. Hemingway App
This is a new favorite. If you have a tendency to fall into the passive voice, you’ll love Hemingway. It picks it out those passive voice sentences, highlights them in green and then gives you hints on how to change them. It highlights all its grammar suggestions in different colors; blue for adverbs, red for hard to read sentences, purple for words or phrases that could be simplified. In addition to all this, it gives you a count on your paragraphs, sentences, words and characters. Best of all, it’s free to use. (It also told me that this article is written at an 8th grade reading level, which is perfect for online writing.)
That’s it; my top 5 tools for improving my writing.
Obviously, there is a lot more to being a good writer than proper grammar, spelling and punctuation. But without those, your “good” writing will never become “great” writing.
What tools do you use or recommend? Leave a comment.