5 free tools to help you write content
At Mackman, we often ask clients to write their own content with guidance and prompts based on insight around target audiences and search engine optimisation. Whilst not all of our clients profess to be copy writers, they do know their business and industry inside out, and with our help and support they are able to produce engaging content. However, writing your own content can be difficult, particularly if you feel that writing doesn’t come naturally to you. Here are a few useful free content writing tools to help you. Some tools are for creating longer-form content while others such as character counters are a better fit for writing short headlines and posts.
Yes, you read that right. Whether you’re writing a short social media post or long-form content for the homepage of your new website, your customers will view it with a critical eye. In today’s world, people will pick up on spelling and grammar, as there are so many tools available to help you avoid mistakes. It is highly unlikely that a misplaced apostrophe will lose you business, but sloppy writing comes across to the outside world as an indication of carelessness, whereas accurate and articulate content indicates professionalism and credibility. Even something as basic as spellcheck built into Microsoft Word can help you pick up on mistakes, and it has improved with every version of Windows. However, online tools such as Reverso do the job just as well, and can pick up on mistakes that Spellcheck may have missed.
Character Count, and others like it, are simple but great tools for counting characters in your content. This tool can be used for any text - you can either type directly into the tool or copy and paste your content from elsewhere. At the top of the page, the number of characters, words, sentences, paragraphs are displayed, along with how much white space there is. A useful feature is that it keeps track of how many times you have used a certain word, which comes in handy if you’re writing a blog post with a particular keyword, or on the other hand, trying to avoid repetition.
Readability Test Tool
Using the Readability Test tool helps you to keep tabs on how your copy will come across to the reader. This is particularly important if you’re writing copy for a website, where anyone can access it – you want your services, for example, to be as easy to understand as possible. This also goes for blog posts. It is important to keep in mind that although your target audiences may be based in the UK, English is not everybody’s first language, and so by ensuring that your copy is comprehensible by people with varying levels of literacy, you will widen the reach of any content you are writing.
The Readability Test tool will measure your writing against several indices to assess how easy it is to understand. These include:
- The Flesch Kincaid Reading Ease Level – this score uses the average length of your sentences (measured by the number of words) and the average number of syllables per word in an equation to calculate the reading ease.
- The SMOG Index – this stands for ‘Simple Measure of Gobbledygook’, and estimates the years of education a person needs to comprehend a piece of writing.
- The Automated Readability Index (ARI) – this index was designed for real-time monitoring of readability on electric typewriters.
- The Gunning Fog Index – copy requiring near-universal understanding generally needs an index less than 8.
- The Coleman–Liau Index – like the ARI but unlike most of the other indices, this relies on characters instead of syllables per word.
You can use the Readability Test as a content writing tool in one of two ways – either input your text directly into the tool, or copy and paste a URL and it will assess the readability of an existing webpage. The tool also displays information such as the number of sentences, words, complex words and similar useful statistics.
CoSchedule Headline Analyser
The CoSchedule Headline Analyser is a useful tool when you’re thinking about writing titles or headlines for your content, especially ones that need to encourage people to click on and read what you’ve written. Once you've written all the content that you need, it is as simple as pasting your headline into the tool. It will rank your headline with a score and explain what you could improve. As an example, the title of this blog piece earned a score of 66 out of 100. The tool suggests adding more uncommon words to the title to help it rank, but it scores the positive sentiment and length of the title highly.
The factors that the content writing tool takes into account are displayed visually to help you understand how you can improve. For example, the ‘First and Last’ measure allows you to see the first and last three words of your title in combination, as many people skim read titles. This means that the first and last three words need to explain precisely what your content is about, and provide a hook to appeal to people who will be interested in your content. You can improve your headline by amending single words if you prefer, as the tool has a handy feature that saves your history so that you can increase your score based on previous iterations.
Hemingway is a free tool that you can use online, and is also available in a desktop app. The app highlights lengthy, complex sentences and common errors by colour coding content that you paste in, or type directly. You can format text exactly as you would on a Word document, and like the WordPress plugin Yoast, it will flag up all the areas where you can improve your writing. The colour codes are as follows:
- Yellow – This indicates a sentence that is too long. Here, you can think about shortening it or splitting it into multiple sentences.
- Red – This content is too complex, and readers may get lost. Rephrasing anything in red can help your text to be universally understood.
- Purple – This word is long, where perhaps a shorter one will do. You can hover over the highlight to get suggested alternatives.
- Blue – This signifies phrases or adverbs that dilute copy and take away from the main point of the sentence. The app will suggest removing them in favour of punchier words that get to the point quicker.
- Green – The passive voice is often picked up on by Hemingway. Or, in the active voice, ‘Hemingway picks up on the passive voice’. Active voice can make your writing more direct and stronger, although there is a place for passive writing too. Writers endlessly debate the correct use of passive versus active voice, but it is worth keeping an eye on this in your own writing to see which style suits your purpose best.
Stuck? Ask for advice
These copywriting tools provide helpful features if you know what you’re going to write, but finding inspiration is often difficult. Perhaps you want your writing to be checked by somebody else, or share ideas in a group. Google Docs or Dropbox Paper provide a way of working collaboratively on the same document, so if you are writing content on behalf of a business, consider using these shared platforms to help you write content that reflects a shared opinion.
If you would rather not take the plunge or have reached a sticking point with your content, at Mackman, we offer a copywriting service to take the pressure off you. Contact us through our contact form for more details on how we can help.