Some of my most-used writing tools:
You give it a headline and it quickly analyzes it for word types, length, and category. It gives a grade and offers suggestions. It is clearly geared for blog post headlines, but I use it to analyze other types of headlines too.
This site (also available as a desktop application) is fanatical about simplicity. Simple copy is almost always better copy. Give Hemingway your copy, and it looks for a number of things, including:
- Passive voice (you don't need to kill all passive, but if you have a lot of passive sentences, your writing is weak).
- Adverbs (you can get rid of almost all of them).
- Complex phrases (like "utilize" when you could say "use").
- Sentences that are hard to read.
- Sentences that are very hard to read'em (These last two are hard to self-diagnose; you wrote them -- they don't seem complex to you).
This analyzer does one task: It tells you what percentage of your writing is latinate -- that is, words of Latin origin, compared to those to Germanic origin. Latinate copy sounds "educated" -- but as you use more, it becomes complex, pretentious, then evasive. As the Latinometer says, if your copy is 60% or more latinate, "you are probably lying." I try to keep fundraising copy 25% to 35% latinate.
You probably have this problem too: If I open a printed thesaurus, I won't get any work done for the next hour or so. Words are too amusing, compelling, engaging, intriguing, provocative. The online version helps me stay on task.
Scrivener isn't an online tool; it's a desktop application -- a word processor geared specifically for writers. It's a stripped-down, no-junk word processor with advanced sorting capabilities aimed at writers' needs. It's great for long and complex projects. Some writers use Scrivener for everything.
Important note: Don't become a slave to your writing tools! They help you see your writing through different lenses -- but they can't make you a good writer. In fact, they can make you a lousy writer if you over-use them!
Writing well is your job, and it comes from using your heart, soul, and mind -- with a little help from some useful tools.