Writing tips

3 Writing Apps to Make You a Better Writer

Writing tipsAs freelance writers, most of us work alone. The good thing about that is that there is no one to tell us how to do our job. Unfortunately, it also means that there is no one to help us become better writers.

But worry not – whether you want to write faster, write content that has a wider audience reach, or write content that is grammatically correct,  there are writing apps to help you improve.

There are three online tools that I use for almost every piece of writing, and I can certainly vouch for how these apps have helped me be a more accurate writer. These are –ID-100144466

  1. Writebox
  2. Hemingway
  3. Grammarly

I first used Writebox in 2013 when I was on a quest to write more articles and increase my earnings as a freelance writer. Writebox is a text-editor like MS Word. The difference is that the Writebox software does not prompt you to correct spellings, improve sentences, or correct grammar as you type content. Because there is nothing to slow you as you type, it gives you the freedom to write as freely as you would if you were to use pen and paper. Writebox is the closest you can get to writing digitally at the speed of thought.

Hemingway App tells you how difficult or easy it is to understand your content. Once you paste the content on the app, the first thing to look at is the readability level of the content. For instance, ‘grade 8’ means that the person reading the content should have at least a U.S grade 8th education. A higher than 10th-grade score means that your content has jargon, complicated words, and complex sentences.

The app claims that Hemingway’s content had a writing ease of 5th grade, despite the fact that he mostly wrote for an adult audience.

The Hemingway app highlights the following
  • Complicated words
  • Passive sentences
  • Adverbs, and
  • Sentences that are hard or very hard to read

Choosing simpler words, writing in an active voice, minimising use of adverbs, and breaking down complex sentences, will allow your writing to reach a wider audience.

I am a recent Grammarly convert. You see I just finished the draft of my first eBook. I speak and write English fairly well, but am not well-versed with the nuances of grammar.  Instead of hiring a proof-reader to do the job, I decided to buy the annual subscription plan of Grammarly.

Grammarly helps write mistake-free on MsWord, WriteBox, Gmail, and social media accounts. Take the one-month subscription plan to get an idea of how the app can help you. The annual subscription plan costs approx $140 and saves you about $19 a month.

These are just some of the writing tips I have to share from my experience as a freelance writer. I am writing an eBook which will help any aspiring freelance writer break into the highly competitive world of online content writing. Follow my blog and Facebook page to stay updated.  

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Learning How to Write Faster – The Research

adamr - fast writingMy blog captures my experiences and challenges as a freelance writer.

The challenge I am faced with currently is learning to write faster.

For a freelance writer, time is money. One way to increase my earnings is to write more pages every day. Writing faster is also a way to make time for myself, doing things other than writing.

I am dividing this post into two phases. The first is the ‘research’ phase where basis information available, I have identified habits / methods I need to change to be able to write faster.  The second phase will be an ‘update’ on how these changes have helped me write faster.

So having spent my Sunday evening looking for ways to write faster, I have shortlisted 6 tips which made the most sense.

1. Don’t seek perfection as you write

This one tip stands out across most of the blogs and articles I read on this subject.Write as clearly as you can, but leave the editing and the need to ‘choose the right words’ for a later stage. Write the first draft non-stop without stopping to correct your content. The best way is to write as if talking to a friend. ( Status – Trying to implement this)

2. Clear your thoughts before beginning the writing

Before starting to write, spend a few minutes deciding what you are going to write on –

  • What is the topic of your article? Or, what is that one question that your article will answer on that topic?
  • What are the three key things your article will address? This will give you the article subheadings and help steer your research.
  • Don’t start writing until you have listed your major ideas and collected your relevant research material.

I really like the concept of figuring out the top 3 things your article will address. ( Status – have implemented this). 

3.  Use writing tools 

Most writers have recommended one of the following tools to facilitate faster writing, especially if you aren’t very fast or accurate at typing –

  • Use a text expansion software. It auto-completes words when you type short trigger phrases, which are basically shortcuts created by you for a particular word or phrase. For example, you can create a trigger ‘sig’ which will auto-populate ‘signature’ as you type. This will probably work great if you are doing articles in bulk on a single topic.
  • Use voice to text software such as Dragon Naturally Speaking (priced at $200), to dictate text to your computer, instead of using the keyboard.

( Status – This is something that I need to delve further into)

The next three tips on writing faster may seem like the obvious ways to be productive, but we tend to ignore these all the time.

4.  Determine your most productive hours.

I am typically at my desk by 10.30 a.m, but spend the first hour reading news websites and informative blogs.  But that’s an hour wasted of my most productive time of the day! I have shifted my browsing time towards the end of the day with immediate effect and I certainly managed to complete more work today.  ( Status – Implemented)

5. Set a timer for yourself

Pressurize yourself to write faster by allotting a time target to finish writing a section or a complete article. Running against the clock will also discourage you from indulging in distracting behaviors.

6. Eliminate distractions

This  is easier said than done, but is certainly a discipline that needs to be practiced consciously. Don’t check your phone or email for messages and switch off you chat as you work.  If a friend calls in the midst of the typing spree, tell them you are busy and will call back in a short while. Obviously this does not mean ignoring the important personal/ work calls or matters at home that need your immediate attention. But you need to focus on your work, while at work.

Writing faster does not mean that you will compromise on quality. Here is something from  selfpublishingpodcast.com that stood out – ‘Writing fast allows you to write in your natural tone, without the brain self- editing as you type’.

While the aim is to write more per hour, don’t forget to take your hourly breaks away from the desk to give your body and mind the much-needed rest.

Do you have any tips for writing faster?

Do you use a software that helps you write faster?

Do you prefer to write on paper than using the computer? Author Karen Dionne (in a 2013 article in the Huffington Post) says she improved her writing speed substantially when she wrote by hand. ” My sentences are also cleaner. Because I write more slowly by hand than I can type, I give more thought to what I’m writing, and am thus more careful about what I put on page. When I write in longhand, I don’t write ‘Whey’ when I mean to write ‘When’. Occasionally, I cross out a word or a sentence, but there are no distracting typos, no time-consuming regressions.” 

In the meanwhile, I am pasting a copy of this blog on the wall in front of my writing desk to keep me on the path to faster writing. Wish me luck 🙂

Here are two articles on ‘writing faster’ that I recommend reading.

How to Write Faster: 5 Tips From Our Blog Team – HootSuite

How to Write Fast ( A short introduction to speed writing) –  tuts+

 

Rhea Gaur

Photo credit – adamr , freedigitalphotos.net

Every Writer Must be a Meticulous Self-Editor

Every writer knows that editing is an essential part of the writing process, whether it’s a novel or a one page article. While some writers have professional editors to do the job, most of us need to rely on our self-editing skills.

photo:freedigitalphotos.net , Stuart Miles

photo: Stuart Miles

As a freelance writer, bulk of my work involves writing content for the internet (e.g. business blogs, ebooks, informative articles).  For me, self-editing is not just about correcting grammar and spotting missing words. As I move from the draft to the final copy, self-editing helps me adhere to the following key aspects –

  • The headline is clear and powerful
  • Article sub-headings are clear
  • Each section flows seamlessly into the next.
  • Each paragraph is coherent.
  • Every information is relevant to the reader.
  • Each thought is expressed with the greatest clarity, in the fewest possible words.
  • That I have fully weighed the possible interpretation / implication of each sentence (this is particularly significant as most of my clients are selling a product, service or, the information itself).

Of course, the cardinal rule of a good edit is to start editing once you have finished writing.  As I write, I do check each paragraph for correctness of grammar and cohesiveness of information presented. But majority of the editing happens at a later stage.

My typical editing process looks something like this: 

imagerymajestic

Are you ready to give your work a good snip?   photo: Imagerymajestic

Write > Minor Corrections > Write > Finish the Article> Step Away from my Desk for a While> Come Back and Read the Completed Article > Begin Editing > Re-read the Article Aloud > Re-edit sections> Read the Article Aloud > Satisfied with Outcome 🙂 > Submit to the client.

Reading the article aloud during the editing stage is a great way to catch missing words, or spot unnecessary words.  When in doubt, I ask someone else to read the final edited version, before sending it to the client.

A typical 1000 word article ( or 2 pages) takes me about 30 minutes for a good edit.  Am I overdoing or under-doing it, I can’t say. But it’s what works for me.

In fact, you don’t have to be a writer to realize the importance of self-editing.  We have all had this recurring experience at work – you send out an office email without reading it carefully, only to realize later on the glaring mistakes in the email.  At the very least a poorly drafted email makes you feel like a fool and you say to yourself, “Hey maybe the other person will also not notice”. But if you are unlucky, a badly worded  email could put you in a spot of bother.

Clearly, all of us need to self-edit to achieve results. Unfortunately, when we do something day in and day out, complacency sets in. I realized I was guilty of slacking up in my editing effort over the last few assignments when I read a post by fellow blogger Amanda Fox- Rouch, titled ‘The editing process: Be unforgiving’. And as was to be the case, I spotted some errors in the last document sent to a client. 😦

Whatever your line of work, ensure that you have re-read what you have typed before you press the ‘send’ button on your computer / smartphone screen. If you are a writer, I would love to hear your editing tips and how long does it take you to self-edit your work.

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3 Rules for Writing Easy to Understand Online Content

It is a commonly accepted fact that the average internet reader scans an article/ blog for a few seconds before deciding to continue reading, or clicking the back-button. Therefore,  minimalist impactful writing is a must-have skill for an online content writer .

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo: Stuart Miles, freedigitalphotos.ne

When writing for the internet, less is more!

Unless otherwise asked by your client, the thumb rule of writing for the internet is to write content that is simple, concise, and has coherent paragraphing.

When writing a 400-500 word online article, you must pack in maximum information in the cleanest manner possible.

Here are three ground rules for ensuring that your content catches the reader’s attention.

Rule : I Get straight to the point: 

Credit: Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

photo : Michal Marcol, freedigitalphotos.net

  • Write a headline that clearly indicates information contained in the article.
  • Resist the temptation to write a quirky article headline.
  • Use the first few lines of the article to offer a quick glimpse into the focus of the article.
  • Do not waste time giving a lengthy introduction.
credit: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

photo: digitalart, freedigitalphotos.net

 

Rule : II Break it down into blocks of information

  • Use article sub-headings to divide your article into neat blocks of information. However, you must also ensure that the each section of the article seamlessly flows into the next.
  • Use bullet points, numbered lists where possible in sharing information with the reader.
  • Write small paragraphs of 2-3 sentences. No paragraph should be more than 4 lines on your MS Word document
  • Write short sentences. If any sentence goes beyond 2 typed lines, cut it down in the editing stage.
  • Write one thought per sentence. 

Rule : III Use everyday words

  • Write words used by your readers in everyday life. Avoid industry jargons and outdated words (e.g. herein, herewith, wherewithal).
  • Writing in active voice will help you express information in as few words, and as directly as possible.
  • Once you have written the article, spend considerable time editing the  ‘fluff’.

The art of writing and the mediums of expression have evolved considerably over the last few centuries.  However, the art of simplicity in writing has remained an essential hallmark of a successful writer. William Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit”. Sir Winston Churchill remarked, “This report by its very length defends itself against the risk of being read”. 

Do you agree that simplicity in expression is the way to go? Or, do you feel that the internet is diluting the English vocabulary?

Share your comments in the box below.

12 Email Etiquettes when Dealing with International Clients

One of the most exciting aspects of being a freelance writer is the opportunity to work with people from various nationalities. Most of my clients are from the US, UK, Canada, Australia, with only a handful from my home country India.

Photo credit: cuteimage, freedigitalphotos.net

Photo credit: cuteimage, freedigitalphotos.net

Differences in communication styles across cultures*

While every client has their own style of writing emails, there are discernible differences in the style of communication of clients from different countries. For instance, clients from the US are more likely to start an email message without an opening hello, or addressing by name. Initially, I considered the terse email communication to be an affront, not realising that most Americans simply like to cut to the chase.

In comparison to the Americans, British clients are more formal and appreciative in their communications. Of all the nationalities, Canadians are the most flexible and enthusiastic in the way they approach a project. Australians are friendly in their communications as well.

Sadly, my most difficult work experiences have been in dealing with clients from my own country. Rather than feeling as a valuable contributor to the project (as was the case with clients from other nationalities), the style of communication of most Indian clients was more of a superior-subordinate relationship, with the client being the ‘boss’ 🙂 !

(*These observations are based solely on my experiences in working with international clients.)

NCEmail Etiquettes When Working with People from Different Cultures

While the tone of your communication may be friendly and even personal, remember that there is a business relationship at stake and everything you do makes an impression.

Here are some email etiquette guidelines:

Professional email opening / closing:

1. The number one rule of thumb when communicating with people from different countries is to be aware of the differences and adapt accordingly.For example, a Thailand based alternative healing expert who wanted web content for his business, signed off on emails as ‘Master’ and therefore I addressed him the same way in my communications. Although I did not finally get the project, my email exchanges with this client were the most ‘old school’ thus far.

2. While in UK and India, it remains acceptable to begin business emails with ‘Dear’, some international clients (in the US for instance) may consider the use of the word too intimate. Increasingly, ‘hello’ or simply the name of the person is considered an appropriate way to begin the email. Addressing a client with ‘hey’ would still be viewed as inappropriate for most business associations.

3. Sign-off’s have changed as well. ‘Yours faithfully /sincerely’ has been replaced with ‘regards, ‘kind regards’ or ‘best wishes’.

4. As an email chain becomes more of an online conversation, it is okay to drop the salutations and the sign-offs, and just write the main message.

5. Remember to include all your business co-ordinates as part of the sign-off (contact number, website, Skype, Facebook page, business motto).

Informal maybe, but always meticulous

6. Avoid use of slangs, as the acceptance of slang may differ across cultures.

7. Make the effort to write complete words. Avoid use of unnecessary abbreviations even when sending the email from your smartphone.

8. Ensure that there are no grammatical and spelling errors. If it is an important email, read it aloud to spot typos.

9. Do not type in upper case ( with the CAPS on), as it is interpreted as shouting.

10. In business emails, use a smiley only if you know it will be received well. To be safe, let the client make the first move 🙂 .

Be succinct

11. On an average, a person working in a company receives 50 emails day.  If you want the client to respond to your email in the fastest time possible, write him/her a message that is clearly understood, and stated in the fewest words possible. For instance, if you are working on a long-term project, attaching a weekly status worksheet along with your main message will be more effective, than sending a verbose email.

12. If you feel things are not going well on email, do not hesitate to call your client or set up a Skype chat.

How you communicate by email speaks volumes about your professionalism, reliability, and image as a freelancer. So, remember to follow these basic email etiquettes.

I would love to hear of your experiences in dealing with clients from different countries. Drop in your feedback and comments in the box below.

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