Even strong writers can find it difficult to put words together. Think tight timeframes, limited source information and writer’s block! We can all use a little help at times. As part of my writing and editing services, I call on a variety of tools to inspire me, check my approach and improve my output. Here are a few:

  • Style Manual. While the print version is missed by many an editor, I’m a big fan of the online version. It’s easy to navigate and offers useful context for its decision-making. Some of my most visited pages are about referencing, plain language and how to correctly capitalise or italicise certain titles or terms. The regular newsletter from the Style Manual team is well worth a subscription. It’s one of the only newsletters I read from top to bottom! For word nerds, it’s a treat. (Free)
  • Hemingway App. Readability is an essential consideration, especially for websites. Many projects need me to achieve a certain grade level of readability – generally Year 7 to Year 9 depending on the intended audience. Passive voice still creeps into my writing. Sometimes my sentences are too long. A quick check in Hemingway (I use the web version) lets me know how I’m going. (This para was rated ‘Grade 7’ by Hemingway, which is good.) (Basic version free)
  • Microsoft Word tools. I prefer to do the majority of my writing and editing in Microsoft Word (I use the Microsoft 365 version on my PC). It’s useful for large, complex documents that need footnotes, a table of contents or section breaks. It supports version control and tracks changes. While I only use the occasional macro, it’s a world I continue to explore. Some of my favourite Word tools are Styles, Format painter, Icons, Insert caption (to easily number tables/figures) and the Editor tool for a quick overview. Even though I consider myself a super-user of Word, I know there’s still much more I can uncover. (Annual subscription)
  • Word hippo. Some days my mind forgets how to formulate words (well, at least until I have a coffee). Word hippo is a cool Thesaurus on steroids. Say I need another work for ‘aptitude’ – it serves up a huge variety of formal and informal options: adeptness, finesse, know-how, prowess. I can even ask for words that rhyme (very helpful for a copywriter) or examples of the word in a sentence (very helpful for an editor). (Free)
  • Macquarie online. I try to stick to the same dictionary for all projects. I find the Macquarie Dictionary online the most useful (though there have been some bugs since its website update). The results for each searched word are easy to understand and offer useful examples. A nifty feature is advice about how the same word may be spelt in the US or how the word has evolved over time. (Annual subscription)
  • PerfectIT. The benefit of PerfectIT is that it gives a thorough editing check to a document AFTER I have edited it. I typically use it for larger documents where I might need another check of repeated acronyms or inconsistent presentation of a particular word or phrase (for instance, if there’s a mix of organisation and organization used throughout, PerfectIT will let me know). The subscription I have is easy to embed into Word as an add-on. (Annual subscription)
  • ChapGPT and other AI tools. While I have explored ChapGPT, I’m not yet a committed user. There are AI add-ons available across Grammarly, Microsoft and Hemingway (plus thousands more). I’ll continue to explore the virtues of AI with a little trepidation … I’m determined to use my own brainpower (and intellectual property) as much as possible, for as long as possible.

While these are some of the tools I use, I don’t use them for every project. Let me know if there are writing tools you can’t live without!

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