I had a fascinating, friendly conversation the other week with another blogger who adamantly denied that she was a writer. I left the conversation feeling confused.
Let’s break this down.
You are a blogger, I presume?
You are a writer.
Now, most bloggers don’t consider themselves “professional” writers, and that’s fine. I think when bloggers say they’re not writers at all, though, it almost relieves them of the responsibility to craft their words carefully.
If you take that responsibility seriously like I do, the first step is knowing where you fall short as a writer. My writing tends to be wordy, for example. I also use sentences that are far too long and complex. I use a passive voice at least a few times in every piece, which always surprises me. I focus most of my editing on fixing those couple of issues.
If you’re not sure what your opportunities are, the best thing to do is grab a peer whose writing you admire and ask him or her to critique a piece or two that you’ve already written. Don’t cop-out and just say, “tell me what I can do better.” That won’t get you actionable feedback.
If you really want to learn how to improve, ask your editing buddy to list two things you do well and two things that are opportunities, based on the sample(s) you send. This will help you identify the typical sore points that you’ll need to keep in mind while editing.
A quick note on writing blog posts
One of the biggest mistakes I see bloggers make, sometimes even experienced bloggers, is writing in huge blocks of text. That is not what works in online writing, especially blogging. You need to break up your text into smallish, bite-sized chunks. Keep that in mind.
Ready to edit?
Great! Make sure you do the first edit yourself. Read it aloud for clarity, check for flow, and make sure you don’t forget about the all important comma, please! After you’re finished with first-round edits, it’s time for the helpers. Based on my experience, here are the 5 best free online tools to polish your writing skills:
- Grammarly – Grammarly is a life saver. Although there is a paid version, the free version is robust and accurate most of the time. They have a Chrome extension which automatically checks anything you write online while using the browser. It’s amazing.
- PolishMyWriting.com aka After the Deadline – After the Deadline is a simple and straight forward double checker. It’s fantastic if you’re not using a spelling or grammar checker in your blog editor. Kudos to my bloggy friend and The Art of Better Blogging Facebook Group-mate Jenn @ Women Winning Online for this fabulous recommendation.
- Hemingway – There are quite a few features that make Hemingway one of my favorite copy checker tools. I appreciate the way it highlights sentences that are too long, wordy or complex. It also provides a word count and readability scores as well as gives suggestions on replacements for complex words or phrases.
- Tone Analyzer – I wish I could have a constant tone analyzer for my spoken words as well. Nonetheless, I write how I speak. I can be a slight bit blunt at times, so I’ve found Tone Analyzer to be helpful in ensuring that my words aren’t coming off the wrong way. Shout-out to my other FB group-mate, Annie, for introducing me to this one.
- Expresso – Expresso’s mission is to help writers hone their skills and learn along the way. It’s a little bit more technical with the results but it’s a fantastic way to get better in the long-run.
Although all the tools listed above are spectacular, remember that they’re just tools to be used. Sometimes they’ll be wrong so always use your best judgment and go with your gut.
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What are your favorite free online tools to polish your copy?