The other day my WiFi went down and I panicked. I needed my writing tools.
Some writers prefer to switch off from the web while they work, because it’s a distraction.
Not me. There are 8 websites that I use almost daily for inspiration, spelling, word generation, title creation and free graphics.
Here they are.
Thesaurus.com is part of Dictionary.com. As the name suggests, it’s an online thesaurus, and more*. Even though there is a real thesaurus sitting on my bookshelf, online is easier. I use Thesaurus.com to power up dull sentences on days when everything sounds samey. It’s also handy for for finding material for word clouds (more about those below).
My only criticism? This is an American English dictionary, so when I type in ‘specialise’ or ‘neighbour’, the site will tell me those words don’t exist. It does prompt you with the alternative US spelling, though. I can live with that.
*There’s also a page for Quotes, a Reference Dictionary, plus the highly addictive Word Dynamo (procrastinators beware: the latter is a timeless vocabulary vortex that will suck you in for hours).
Pinterest is great for visualising ideas, in particular for advertising copy. When I need to write about a product or a service and give my text some soul, an attractive collection of images always helps me think up words that convey powerful emotions. Here’s a board I created for a product, another one for a fiction piece and finally, one for a baking blog.
If you write in different languages, or translate, Linguee.com is better than a dictionary, in my opinion. Why? Because for every word or phrase you search, Linguee gives you various existing translation examples, in context, so that you can decide exactly which meaning or word nuance fits your own.
Linguee is not an automatic online translator. It uses thousands of bilingual texts to offer you examples of existing, official translations, which you can then pick from. Many of the texts used are from multilingual EU documents or patent specifications, so you can get translations for a wide variety of legal and technical vocab too.
If you need to jazz up an article, and like fiddling with easy DYI graphic design, consider infographics, made easy by Piktochart. Out of all the free infographic sites out there, I found this one the easiest to use, to have the best selection of icons and fonts, and the coolest layouts and colour palettes. Horses for courses, of course, but here’s one I made earlier (scroll down when the blog post opens).
6. Wordle.net or WordItOut.com
Need a custom made image for your article? Not good at photography or infographics? Maybe your tour topic is too abstract, or you just cannot find the perfect image to match your text? Word clouds work really well, when you’re stuck for pics.
There are various sites that generate word clouds, but Wordle.net and WordItOut.com are easy to use and the results look pretty good. You can save and download the pics easily or have them sent to your email. Plus they’re totally free.
OK, there’s much debate about this, but I personally favour long tail keywords in my content. LTK’s may mean fewer, more specific searches that lead to your article – and therefore less traffic. But by the same logic, you’re generating more finely targeted interest.
Check out the Wordstream.com Long Tail Keyword Generator – I find it great for dreaming up effective titles and article descriptions for content marketing pieces.
I love the Beeb News website. Apart from the wealth of information available, it’s one of the clearest and best laid out sites for readers.
It’s also great for finding inspired ideas for short story plots. I go directly to the “Most read” and “Most shared” tags or forrage around the “Also in the news” page to get ideas… because the funny thing about the BBC site is that even though it’s mostly serious mainstream news reporting (and supposedly brings current affairs to the more discerning reader), you’ll still get the occasional weird or scandalous headline coming up.
Unless you’re a very incurious person, “Angry Pundits Wreck TV Studio on Air” and “Stars Boycott Beverly Hills Hotel” are highly clickable headlines – and therefore provide excellent material for intriguing short stories, or starting points for longer fiction plots.
So, that’s me.
Which online writers’ tools can you not live without?
Featured image credit: By Janaka Dharmasena at FreeDigitalPhotos.net