Between social posts, blog content, website copy, and email newsletters, communicators and PR professionals produce tons of written work.
It can be difficult to develop interesting topics on a consistent basis. Once you’ve found a solid topic, you need to find the time to write without distractions. And after you write that first draft, you need to edit your work until it’s error-free.
Thankfully, tons of tools now exist to assist writers with a variety of challenges.
Whether you’re stuck on finding a new topic that will resonate with audiences, struggling to focus on your writing process, or trying to edit your work to error-free perfection, the list of tools below can help.
Google has a tool for just about every digital need anyone could possibly have. Google Trends is a great site to visit if you’re looking to develop a topic that will interest readers. They describe their mission as “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful.”
If you type a keyword or broad topic into the search bar, it gives you results including a graph showing the searches of this topic over time, the regions searching this topic most often, related queries, and related topics. Users can also compare these results with a similar term.
This tool is useful for gauging the popularity of a concept. Additionally, if your buyer persona targets a specific location or if your brand is trying to reach people in new locations, Trends allows you to see if your potential topic is popular in those areas.
Answer the Public is great for whenever you’re struggling with creating a fully developed topic. Much like Google Trends, users type a keyword or phrase into the search bar. The results show a list of searched queries that contain the keyword or phrase. The results can be viewed as a visual or as a list. These results can also be exported as a .csv.
If you search “crisis communication”, for example, your results will be populated by questions or phrases people have searched about this topic, such as “what are crisis communication strategies” and “how to handle crisis communication.” These questions can become the jumping off point for a full article.
If you’ve ever visited Hubspot’s website, you already know what a wealth of information they offer. Between sales, marketing, and service blogs, downloadable templates and eBooks, and courses, there’s tons of free resources.
Their free Blog Topic Generator, which also comes in a paid version, allows you to enter up to five nouns into their search bar. The results generate five possible titles containing your search terms. The free version does, however, generate variations of the same titles with each new search.
Although this wouldn’t give fresh ideas with every use, occasional visits could help change your thought process about a potential topic idea.
The Writing Process
I found this site while I was in college, and even though the premise of it is kind of silly, it’s actually pretty effective. Under the text box on the main page, there are menus that allow users to select how many words they have to write before receiving a reward.
As the name would suggest, the incentives are mostly of the kitten variety, but the menu also lets you select puppy or bunny. So if a user selects kitten and 100 words, a new photo of a cat will appear on the screen for every 100 words they type into the text box. And is there any better incentive for consistent writing than a photo of a new cat?
I’m the type of person who needs to have music playing in the background when I write. It feels like it contributes to staying focused on whatever task I’m doing. Not all music works as writing music, though. I played the Hamilton soundtrack for the first time while I was writing and kept finding myself pausing to listen to the story unfolding in the songs. As of recently, my film score station on Pandora has been the perfect background music.
If music isn’t really your style, Hipster Sounds offers amazing alternatives. Their free version allows you to stream relaxing, ambient sounds, such as ocean lounge, open-air bistro, and rainy terrace. I figured I’d try it out for a minute and left cozy fireplace playing for hours. It gave me the constant background noise I need without the distraction of lyrics or swelling instrumentals.
I remember reading a passage from one of Mindy Kaling’s books about her writing process. She said that her ratio of productive writing to wasting time is 1 to 7. “So for every 8-hour day of writing, there’s only one good, productive hour of work being done.”
I think, to some extent, every writer can relate to this. There’s too much information and content at our fingertips to avoid occasionally getting distracted by a raccoon eating grapes or a baby learning to walk.
ZenPen facilitates the kind of distraction-free writing that everyone needs. The site has no links or other information on it, just a block of text that explains how the site works when you first navigate onto the page. This text can be erased, and then you’re free to fill the page with your own words. You can create a target word count for yourself, and the site can be made full screen to really push distractions from your sight.
Writing can be one of the toughest activities to stay focused on, especially if it’s a long project or a topic you’re not particularly interested in.
Tomato Timer, however, breaks the writing process down into manageable sections. The site has three pre-set timers, a 25-minute one for working, a 5-minte short break, and a 10-minute long break. These times can be customized, as can the notifications you receive when each block of time ends.
This site draws off the Pomodoro technique, which recommends 25-minute periods of work, punctuated by a 3-5-minute break. If the task isn’t done after one 25-minute block, the person should return to it for another 25 minutes. After four of these 25-minute blocks, referred to as the Pomodoro, the person should take a 15-30-minute break. This technique is meant to promote focus, measurable progress, and the accomplishment of goals.
Similar to ZenPen, the Hemingway App has a very simple interface, featuring a white screen populated by informative text that can be removed and replaced by the user’s own writing. There are two modes, writing and editing.
The editing mode highlights errors and inadvisable writing choices. This site identifies several common writing problems, including the use of the passive voice, adverbs, and hard to read sentences. It also scores the readability of a passage, explaining what school grade would easily be able to read and comprehend the content.
If you find yourself writing long, wordy sentences or passages riddled with corporate jargon, this site is a great resource for simplifying your work and making it more appealing to a wider audience of readers.
One of the cardinal sins of academia is plagiarism. That doesn’t end after you graduate. Although you can research and quote experts, it’s so important for your work to be in your own words.
Right before you’re getting ready to publish your content, it helps to run it through EduBirdie’s Plagiarism Checker. Especially if you researched and drew from other work, it’s helpful to know that your content is all in your own words.
Plagiarism isn’t always intentional. You may have unknowingly paraphrased or borrowed words and phrases from another article you found while researching. Using Plagiarism Checker will ensure that everything is, in fact, your own words.
Depending on what you’re writing, especially if it’s on a very niche topic, you may find yourself using the same word or phrase over and over again. No one wants to read a post that uses the same word multiple times in every paragraph. It gets repetitive and feels unoriginal after a while.
If you’re struggling to find a fitting synonym, visit OneLook. You can type in words or phrases and the site will give you the top 100 synonyms, broken down by part of speech. When you review your article and realize you’ve used the same word or phrases more than a dozen times, this site can give you the synonyms you need to diversify your writing.