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In the digital world, the old-school rules of writing are just as important as they’ve ever been. And, yes, that does apply to social media. Good content creators leave the slang and poor punctuation out of their content. It might be okay for a text message, or your personal Facebook and Twitter profiles, but we hope you hold your website’s content to a much higher standard than that.

For those of us writing content for the web while concurrently living in the age of convenience (read: age of laziness), times have changed. Flipping through our beloved dictionaries and weather-worn copies of Elements of Style just doesn’t quite dazzle us anymore. Luckily, technology is quickly catching up with our collective impatience.

While there are plenty of tools out there to ease the pain of copywriting, I often find myself at a loss as I hunt for that perfect app to quell the woes of the written, nay… Typed word.

5 Tools we wish existed and 5 very real tools you should use.

I’ve spelled out (pun intended) a wish-list of dream applications that any grammarian and orthographizer would drool for:

Dream Tool: Interactive Thesaurus App

No one likes repetitive writing. It’s boring. But so is looking for a replacement word in a thesaurus, especially if you’re in a rush. And most of the time, the first synonym on the list doesn’t fit the context of the sentence. My dream thesaurus tool would take context into consideration and allow me to quickly try out different synonyms in the sentence. Ideally, this would be a plugin that would work with Google Drive documents.

Real Tool: Ginger (freemium)

Ginger is a chrome plugin that allows you to select blocks of text and suggests ways to rephrase with alternative words. The plugin lets you work with one sentence at a time out of larger chunks of copy. My two main pain points: (1) You have to copy and paste text into the editor, and (2) the alternative phrases offered aren’t always the most context-specific.

ginger writing app

 Dream Tool: Auto-corrector for Grammar

It’s easy to get lazy when proofreading written content for the web. For example, this paragraph began in the present tense but it ended in the past tense. See what I did there?

I would love a tool that auto-corrects grammatical errors as they are written.

Generally speaking, writers should refrain from switching tenses mid-sentence or paragraph. But that is a common mistake, and if my auto-grammar editor were real, it would've caught the error and corrected it for me. 

Real Tool: Grammarly (freemium)

The free plugin will automatically underline suspected typographic errors as you write them. It’s great for social media and e-mail. The paid subscription, however, offers much more dynamic tools such as a plagiarism checker and vocabulary enhancer. Even as I write this blog post, Grammarly is notifying me as I make mistakes. Unfortunately, this app does not work in Google Drive, which is a major drawback for me. 

Here's an example of Grammarly's free plugin in action.

Here's an example of Grammarly's free plugin in action.

As you can see, Grammarly's editor offers a ton of functionality to paid users.

 Dream Tool: Audience-Specific Auto-Correction

Imagine you are selling a product or service online to a very specific demographic that speaks in a certain dialect or slang, i.e. teenagers. I wish there were an app that would automatically optimize written content to reach specific demographics. Audience specificity is really important for digital marketing success. There are probably numerous biases and limitations to how successful something like this could be. Some things just can’t be quantified, but a girl can dream, right?

Real Tool: atomicreach.com (freemium)

This tool has more to offer than your run-of-the-mill writing editors. Users can adjust the analyzer with a preferred audience in mind. The free analysis produces a writing sophistication score in terms of that audience and with recommendations for improvement. It works in multiple editors and content management systems. This blog scored a 71, which is considered excellent for the audience I specified! 

Runner Up Tool: readability-score.com (freemium)

This one lets you input text or a URL for your website and then analyzes the copy against 5 different readability formulas, including The Flesch-Kincaid grade level test. An accepted rule of thumb is to aim for an average score of grade 8 when writing for the general public.

Dream Tool: Industry-Specific Dummy Text Generator

Our team can probably recite Lorem Ipsum by heart. But let’s be honest… Clients never understand what this is (at first). And, because humans are fallible creatures, it isn’t uncommon to find a line or two of Lorem Ipsum unintentionally left behind in the process of loading content. Indeed, relying on dummy text is problematic, which is why our Content Strategist is working on ways to make it obsolete.

In the meantime, an industry-specific dummy text generator could definitely come in handy.

Real Tool: blindtextgenerator.com (free)

This generator is not industry-specific, but it does offer users a way to auto-generate exactly the amount of characters, words and paragraphs needed for placeholder content. You can choose from several types of dummy text and whether or not to include

tags. This site also lets users copy dummy text that pre-formatted into HTML snippets, which can be rearranged to create a larger body of content.

Runner-Up Tool: notloremipsum.com (free)

Sometimes dreams do come true. ‘Not Lorem Ipsum’ is exactly that -- not Lorem Ipsum! This site provides sample text for a wide variety of industries, including churches, car sales and dentistry. Unfortunately, the samples are short and you can’t auto-generate based on the number of paragraphs or words you need. ‘Not Lorem Ipsum’ has the potential to be more useful if its creators choose to add more functionality and customization.

Dream Tool: A Plagiarism Alert System

Duplicate content is bad for everyone involved. Even if you are on the receiving end of plagiarism, your site will suffer in SERP rankings because its content exists elsewhere. My dream would be a tool that automatically tells a website’s owner when the content on their site is duplicated elsewhere on the web.

Real Tool: Copyscape (freemium)

Copyscape allows users to input text or a URL and checks that content against the web for duplicates. You are given a results page with links to offender websites so that you can cross-check. It also offers insights into how much content is duplicate.

Do we really need more auto-correction apps, AKA robots that do our work for us?

Maybe not. As we all know by now, auto-corrected spelling software has its drawbacks. More often than not, I find that apps like Grammarly and Ginger are primarily useful because they point out writing mistakes that I might otherwise miss. I still have to make the correction. These tools offer writers the kindness of a tap on the shoulder rather than offering our clients a robot intended to replace us. 

Does one of my dream tools already exist? Tweet @monkeeboy about it.

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