Writing is a skill learned through years of work. It is an art, even if that writing is being done for a business article, a ghost-written book, or a blog.
Like all art forms, writing has its tools, and below are some of the tools I use consistently in order to make my writing stand out.
The article you write might repeat the same word too many times, or it might use words that aren’t powerful enough.
The two thesauri I use constantly in my writing are thesaurus.com and Merriam Webster’s thesaurus. I’ve added them both as a custom search engine in my Chrome Browser and assigned the keywords “T” and “MT” to each of them respectively.
This means that I can be in the middle of writing a piece, hit Ctrl + T to open a new browser tab, then type in “T” or “MT” followed by the word I need a synonym for.
It’s very fast, and if you’re going to be using these tools regularly you definitely need to add custom search engines for them. Various browsers support custom search engines.
Google Define also provides decent synonyms when you look up a word. (And, of course, I’ve also added Google Define as a custom search engine.)
The main thing you should watch out for when using a thesaurus is to stick to words you personally know well, or at least know well enough to use them comfortably in an article. Nothing stinks worse than reading a piece where it’s clear that the author was trying to impress everybody by showing off his nonexistent erudition. Articles written in this manner stick out like a sore thumb to anyone who has even a basic mastery of the language.
Stick to the word you know. Rather write simply and get your message across than try and write too complicatedly and lose your audience.
Oh, my goodness. I use a lot of these.
Remember that thesaurus we talked about? Remember those words you didn’t understand? Well, look them up! That’s the only way you’re going to learn their meaning. And after you’ve looked them up a few times then you will feel comfortable using them and will be able to discern whether or not they’re the right words for the article you’re currently writing.
Of course, I’ve added custom search engines for each of these dictionaries, but the ones I use far more than any other are Google Define (which I believe is powered by the Oxford Dictionary, if I’m not mistaken) and Merriam Webster.
But I also have custom search engines configured for:
- Longmann (I rarely use this one because I find the definitions too simple)
- The American Heritage Dictionary, 5th Edition, via wordnik
- Oxford (which is now Lexico)
And I think a few others.
Your dictionary is your best friend as a writer. Words are your tools, and only familiarity with your tools will make you a better writer.
Grammarly spell-checker and auto-correct
I’m not a huge fan of Grammarly. I’m not a huge fan of anything which automatically tries to correct my writing. A writer should know his language and not depend on external, automated tools to teach him that language. I actually end up ignoring most of Grammarly’s suggestions because I take an artistic liberty on them.
I use WordPress to write my articles for clients on because the interface is simple and it gives me a word count at the bottom of the editor. (I use the Classic Editor and not the new Gutenberg editor, which confuses the hell out of me.) This also means my articles are online and I can work on them from anywhere.
I know there are other online tools such as Google Docs, MS Word Online, and even Dropbox Paper, but I also copy the HTML from WordPress using a special programming tool I developed and that makes it easy for me to send the final article to my clients in HTML and Word formats.
I use other minor tools, and some complicated ones as well, but the above are my main ones. The key for me is to write fast while still maintaining high quality because the faster I can work the more I can earn.
I have to do that without sacrificing quality because I charge market rates for my writing, and you can’t charge market rates and deliver junk.
Thesauri, dictionaries, WordPress and Grammarly — these are the four tools which give me the most mileage in my daily writing. Perhaps you’ll find that they do the same for you.