Revised February 11, 2017
The top challenge identified by marketers in the recent B2B Marketing Trends study was “producing better content.” With more than 90% of both B2B and B2C marketers now using content marketing, success is no longer about simply creating more content, but about developing higher-quality output: more targeted, more relevant, more personal.
And though video and other video content forms are growing in importance, text remains the dominant for of content for marketing and sales. Among global business leaders, 85% prefer text-based articles (vs. 5% for video) for helping to make business decisions.
The upshot of all this is that content marketing success relies on great writing. Prospective buyers won’t take the time to investigate the benefits of your products or services or the merit of your ideas if that information isn’t conveyed in a clear and compelling manner.
Fortunately, while not everyone can be a great writer, almost anyone can be a better writer by utilizing helpful (and mostly free) online tools. Here are two dozen tools to assist with everything from improving grammar and avoiding cliches to writing better headlines and more readable text.
Google Review Count: 486
Uses a number of different readability algorithms including Flesch-Kincaid, Gunning-Fog, Coleman-Liau Index, and others to assign a “grade level” to the readability of submitted text. Works with English and most European languages.
Sample review: “From breaking up your text with shorter paragraphs to using lists to add more whitespace, content online has to be easy to scan and read. And one writing tool I use to ensure I have easy to read content is Readability Score.” — Blogging Wizard
Pricing: range of plans from free to $400 per year, plus custom pricing for enterprises
Showcase reviews: Johnny Lists, Blogging Wizard
Google Review Count: 285
Check grammar, citations, word usage, and scan the web to avoid plagiarism. Primarily a tool for students, it can provide value to publishers and researchers as well.
Pricing: packages from $8 to $30 based on number of documents
Showcase reviews: Johnny Lists
3) Hemingway App
Google Review Count: 236
Helps improve your writing by highlighting and helping fix run-on sentences, complex clauses, unnecessary words, and passive voice.
Sample review: “The Hemingway tool is a great way to ensure your writing is easy to read. It highlights all kinds of writing faux pas, from the dreaded passive voice to using words so long or obscure they make you sound like a premeditatedly cantankerous prolix.” — Econsultancy
Showcase reviews: HubSpot, Buffer Social, Econsultancy, Quick Sprout, StoreYa Blog
Google Review Count: 210
As Rainy Mood (see #10 above) reproduces the sound of rainfall to aid concentration, Coffitivity recreates the ambient sounds of a cafe to boost your creativity and help you work better.
Pricing: free or premium version at $9 per year
Showcase reviews: Blogging Wizard
Google Review Count: 203
A free tool to help bloggers and other writers to edit their work and improve writing style. It helps writers more effectively express their ideas and make their text more readable, precise, and engaging.
Showcase reviews: Wrike
Google Review Count: 198
Writing a novel, research paper, script or any long-form text involves more than hammering away at the keys. Scrivener is a word processor and project management tool that stays with you from the first idea through collecting research, organizing content, and creating the document structure all the way through to the final draft.
Sample review: “Originally designed to help novelists manage their manuscripts, Scrivener is an excellent organizational tool, especially if you blog for multiple clients and outlets. Scrivener works with documents, folders, labels and statuses, all within individual projects.” — Blogging Wizard
Showcase reviews: Katie Lance, Quick Sprout, Blogging Wizard
7) Cliché Finder
Google Review Count: 197
A word to the wise, your writing should begin with a clean slate, not just sound like another day, another dollar. This free tool helps identify those tried and true cliches that are a dime a dozen and get rid of them, needless to say.
Sample review: “You don’t want people to screw their face up in disgust when they read your email, so don’t fill it with the kind of tired old clichés you might find in the average LinkedIn ‘influencer’ article. For every cliché there is a much less annoying alternative. Just call a spade a spade and make sure your email does exactly what it says on the tin.” — eConsultancy
Showcase reviews: eConsultancy
Google Review Count: 196
Grammarly helps you be a better writer by eliminating most writing mistakes. It scans your text for proper use of more than 250 advanced grammar rules, spanning everything from subject-verb agreement to article use to modifier placement; checks for contextual spelling errors (e.g., they’re/their/there); and suggests synonyms to improve and vary word choice.
Sample review: “If you weren’t a writing major making sure you have perfect spelling and grammar while answering fans on the fly can be a tad time-consuming. Enter Grammarly. This browser plug-in is free, easy to install and checks your writing across the Web. It’s taken my post proofreading to a new level and enabled me to speed up and improve my responses to fans.” — TNW News
Pricing: free to $30 per month
Showcase reviews: HubSpot, TNW News, Quick Sprout
Google Review Count: 195
Type any word and find rhymes in six different style types (end rhymes, double rhymes, first syllable rhymes, etc.).
Sample review: “Find the perfect word with this online rhyming dictionary.” — Wrike
Pricing: free or $20 for desktop version
Showcase reviews: Johnny Lists, Wrike
10) Written? Kitten!
Google Review Count: 194
This unusual motivation tool gives you a writing space, then “rewards” you at an interval you choose (every 100, 200, 500, or 1,000 words) with a randomly chosen image of a kitten. For non-cat fans, the site offers dogs or bunnies as an alternative.
Showcase reviews: Blogging Wizard
Google Review Count: 189
More of a reading app than a writing tool, Readability scrubs web pages (even your own) of distractions so they are easier to read particularly for longer posts and articles (and to see how your content looks when stripped down). Registered users can also save articles for later reading on their desktop, Kindle, or mobile devices.
Sample review: “Drag the Readability bookmarklet to your toolbar to convert any content on the web into a simple, easy-to-read format with an estimate of how long it’ll take you. Also check out the other bookmarklet options here, including one that sends longer content to your Kindle to read later.” — Buffer Social
Showcase reviews: Buffer Social, Re/code
12) Tomato Timer
Google Review Count: 188
As outlined here previously, the Pomodoro Technique is a time management system to help writers and other creative developers work more effectively. It involves working in 25-minutes bursts, followed by breaks. This free timer helps utilize this productivity-improvement approach.
Showcase reviews: Quick Sprout
13) Coschedule Headline Analyzer
Google Review Count: 187
Some headline types get more traction than others for social shares, traffic, and search engine ranking. This free headline analyzer helps you understand your headline types to capitalize on this research.
Sample review: “Headlines can make or break a post, and that’s why you want to make sure that yours is a winner…I use this tool daily to test out as many variations of a headline as I can come up with. Each one is scored based on their algorithm, giving me an idea of how my audience will respond to it.” — Rebekah Radice
Showcase reviews: Hubspot, Quick Sprout, Rebekah Radice, Robbie Richards
14) Windows Live Writer
Google Review Count: 174
Windows Live Writer (WLW) by Microsoft is an application for composing and managing blog posts, enabling you to write your posts offline and publish them later. It includes several helpful tools to make post writing easier, such as spell check, easy HTML tables, and maps from Virtual Earth.
Sample review: “As a newer blogger, I used to type my posts in WordPress itself because when I would type them in Word I had coding issues after I pasted them into the post…I was introduced to this program and instantly fell in love. As you write your post it’s showing up as if it’s already published on your blog…You can add your images, change your headers and even change the font..You can publish it directly from LiveWriter or you can post the draft to your blog, which will send it directly to WordPress.” — Blogging Wizard
Showcase reviews: Blogging Wizard
Google Review Count: 173
Copy and paste special characters from a dozen different sets including currency symbols, arrows, shapes, math symbols, and punctuation.
Showcase reviews: Siasat
Google Review Count: 171
Create words clouds from any text source. These clouds show the relative prominence of words that appear more frequently in the source text. You can tweak your clouds with different fonts, layouts, and color schemes, and use the images however you like.
Sample review: “Create beautiful word clouds in just a few clicks.” — BuzzBlogger
Showcase reviews: Siasat, BuzzBlogger
17) After The Deadline
Google Review Count: 164
Paste or enter text and this tool returns feedback about spelling errors, grammar suggestions, and style recommendations.
Sample review: “After the Deadline checks spelling, style, and grammar wherever you go on the web.” — BuzzBlogger
Showcase reviews: Siasat, Buffer Social
18) Rainy Mood
Google Review Count: 160
Provides relaxing background noise for sleeping, studying, relaxing, or writing. Combines thunder and rain storm sounds with various musical mixes.
Sample review: “For me and many others, rain is a pretty soothing background noise. It obscures distracting sounds and lets you focus on your work. Background nature sounds have been proven to improve both mood and productivity. This is a great tool when you just need some peace and quiet.” — Quick Sprout
Showcase reviews: Quick Sprout
19) Readability Test Tool
Google Review Count: 142
Provides a quick and easy way to test the readability of your work. The Readability Test Tool takes the text on your web page and gives a score for the most used readability indicators, including Flesch Kincaid, the Coleman Liau Index, and the Automated Readability Index (ARI).
Sample review: “Enter a web address or a block of text into the Readability Test Tool for an easy-to-understand analysis of your content. This tools measures a ton of different readability scores, and does a good job of explaining each one.” — Buffer Social
Showcase reviews: Buffer Social
Google Review Count: 141
Word to clean HTML is a free converter tool for documents produced by Microsoft Word and similar office software. Word to clean HTML strips out invalid or proprietry tags, leaving clean HTML behind for use in web pages and ebooks.
Showcase reviews: Hubspot, Quick Sprout
21) Slick Write
Google Review Count: 122
Slick Write is a powerful, free tool that makes it easy to check your writing for grammar errors, potential stylistic mistakes, and other issues.
Sample review: “The cornerstone skill of great PR is being able to write well. If you struggle with writing well, take a free online course…Once you’ve gotten the learning done, use free tools like SlickWrite to help proofread your writing on the fly and make it stronger.” — Shift Communications
Showcase reviews: Shift Communications
22) Emotional Marketing Value Headline Analyzer
Google Review Count: 117
This free tool will analyze your headline to determine the Emotional Marketing Value (EMV) score. In addition to the EMV score, you’ll find out which emotion your headline most impacts: intellectual, emphathetic, or spiritual.
Sample review: “What this score essentially tells you is how likely your headline is to produce an emotional response. As you might know, most buying decisions are based on emotion. It follows then that emotional headlines are most important for landing pages, sales pages, case studies, and reviews—any type of content that would ideally lead to a transaction. Not all blog posts need to evoke emotion, but for the above situations, this tool is quite handy.” — Quick Sprout
Showcase reviews: Quick Sprout, SiteTuners
23) Word Counter
Google Review Count: 111
Word Counter is a word count and a character count tool. Simply place your cursor into the box and begin typing. Word counter will automatically count the number of words and characters as you type. You can also copy and paste a document you have already written into the word counter box. In addition, word counter automatically shows you the top 10 keywords and keyword density of the article you’re writing.
Showcase reviews: Hubspot, SiteTuners
Google Review Count: 71
An advanced grammar, spelling and language usage tool, Correctica will scan blog posts, PDFs, resumes, emails and other documents for free. Or, for a modest fee, you can use the service to automatically scan your entire website monthly and report any errors. Correctica scans web content to find errors spell checkers and grammar checkers miss, such as phrases, like “sneak peak” and “prostrate cancer,” which contain commonly misused homophones and common misspellings. Correctica also finds misused idioms, like “I could care less,” and incorrect article use.
Pricing: free, or $9 to $2,000 per month (based on number of pages) for regular website scanning
Showcase reviews: HubSpot
Showcase Review Links
This was the sixth post in the Best Online Business Tools series.
#6: The 24 Best Online Writing Tools and Apps