Adam Fisher
22nd October 2018 - 7 mins read
O

f course, when Mr Zinsser started writing, he had little more than a typewriter for technological support.

Producing and creating content remains difficult, but the modern writer does have access to a range of online tools which can improve their writing and help them find inspiration.

Here are some of our favourites:



Grammarly

This is probably the best-known writing tool, so we won’t spend too much time discussing it.

It is essentially a proofreading tool which automatically spots grammar, spelling, punctuation and even style mistakes.

When it suggests a correction it also provides an explanation. This means the writer can make a well-informed decision on whether or not they will make that change.

You can copy and paste text into Grammarly’s Editor or install a free browser extension.



Cliché Finder

We’re all guilty of including words and phrases in our writing which might be a bit trite or overused.

Cliché Finder is a free, simple, tool which helps you to identify those expressions before your work gets published.

I used it on a blog I recently wrote and it instantly identified the expressions ‘over the years’.  Not only did this prompt me to remove this from the work, but it also means I will be more conscious about using the phrase in the future, ultimately improving my writing.



Hemmingway Editor

This is a bit like the newspaper sub-editor who has been doing the job for years and just knows how to make copy better even when there is nothing grammatically wrong.

The emphasis is on making writing short and punchy by highlighting complicated words, dull sentences, passive voice, and adverbs.

And it is easy to use. If you see a yellow sentence, it needs to be shortened; if it is red it is too complicated; purple means a shorter word could be used, and blue is used to highlight adverbs and weak phrases.



CoShedule’s Headline Analyzer

Headlines are important.

A good one will entice readers to your content, while one that fails to hit the mark could prevent people from clicking – a real shame if the article that sits below is strong.

But constantly producing eye-catching headlines isn’t easy.

The good news is there is help readily available.

CoSchedule Headline Analyzer breaks down your headline in terms of structure, grammar, and readability.

Headlines are scored out of 100 with points gained for the use of ‘common’, ‘uncommon’, ‘emotional’ and ‘power’ words and phrases.



Hub spot Blog topic generator

When the dreaded writer’s block strikes, you need to find inspiration.

And tech can sometimes provide the answer.

There are a few blog topic generators around but Hubspot’s Blog Ideas Generator is probably the best one.

Simply type a few phrases into the boxes and the algorithm does the rest.

Putting ‘words’, ‘content’ and ‘ideas’ into the system came up with the following options:

 

1 Think You're Cut Out For Doing Content? Take This Quiz

2 The Worst Advice We've Ever Heard About Words

3 Tools Everyone In The Ideas Industry Should Be Using

4 Quick Tips About Content

5 Best Blogs To Follow About Words

 

As you can see, the ideas they generate aren’t always brilliant, but the third suggestion is very similar to this blog.

This tool is free and even if the suggestions do not always hit the mark, it could just come up with an idea you can develop.



Wordcounter

This website offers more than its uninspiring name might suggest.

As well as providing a running total of the number of words and characters – useful if you have a minimum or maximum total you need to reach – its main benefit is showing whether your writing has become a bit repetitive.

The system shows how often you have used each word, giving you the opportunity to provide some alternative options.

Additionally, it provides you with a reading and speaking time for your writing - ideal if you are preparing a speech.  



Power Thesaurus

Once you’ve identified the words you are using a little too often, you may need some help finding alternative options.

There are plenty of online thesauruses, with Thesaurus.com being the biggest. But I prefer the crowd sourced Power Thesaurus for a more user-friendly experience and fewer adverts.



Urban dictionary

Not every definition in the Urban Dictionary is going to be suitable for your writing, particularly if you have an audience which may be easily offended. Some definitions are, let’s just say ‘educational’.

But, if you are looking for a definition of a word or phrase that is new or has different meanings to different people, it can be a useful tool.

When I wrote a blog for our sister company Media First about spokespeople repeatedly using the phrase ‘deeply concerned’, Urban Dictionary provided the perfect definition to give my content a little more edge.

It defined the phrase as: “An expression used in PR, especially political, when the person or organization is expected to care about a situation and comment on it, but they don't actually give a s**t, because the situation in question isn't particularly relevant to them, but it is politically imprudent to say that outright.”



Coffitivity

Sometimes writers just need to find a way of boosting their creativity.

Personally, when I’m struggling for inspiration, or just need some background noise, I plug in the headphones and let Guns N’ Roses destroy what remains of my hearing.

I appreciate though that others may have a different (not better) taste in music, or just need something a little more soothing.

This is where Coffitivity comes into its own. It recreates the ‘ambient’ sounds of a café to create a pleasant working environment. Not only that, but there is a range of coffee sounds to help you get in the mood, including some from Paris and Brazil.



BrainyQuote

Adding pertinent quotes from famous writers, politicians and entrepreneurs can be a great way of adding more depth to your writing and inspiring your audience.

You’ll notice that I included a quote at the start of this blog and in other posts I have quoted the likes of John F Kennedy, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain and Maya Angelou among others.

Of course, it is not always easy to remember who the quote originally came from or whether you recalled it correctly.

This is where BrainyQuote comes in handy. The site not only enables you to check back on famous quotes but also search for more by topics, authors, and people in the news.



Word

It is not just going online that can improve writing. The ever-dependable Word also offers some useful tools.

The Flesch Reading Ease score uses the number of words in a sentence and the number of syllables in each word to calculate how easy it is to read a document. The lower the score, the more difficult the text is to read and ideally you should aim for a score of between 60 and 70.

The second check, known as the Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, is an equation which tells you how many years of education someone needs to understand your content.

The grade score is based on the American grade system and essentially you need to add five to your grade to find the reading age of your content.

To find your score, simply go to the ‘file’ menu, then ‘options’ and then on to the ‘proofing’ tab.

Under the ‘when correcting spelling and grammar in Word’ heading you need to tick the box which says ‘show readability statistics’.

Then when you run a spelling and grammar check you will find the two readability scores.

 

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

Marketing

Magazine Guide

Aimee Hudson 20th March 2018 — 4 mins read
C

ompanies have become their own publishing houses, producing regular magazines aimed at informing, entertaining and evoking loyalty in their customers.

And the ones who do it well produce compelling content which is a long way from the sort of advertorial type material you may traditionally expect from branded print.

One of the great strengths of brand magazines is that if they are good, people will keep hold of them for longer than other promotional material. They also offer something different from the digital bombardment many customers face.

Here are some of our favourites:

 

The Red Bulletin

The Red Bulletin has all the high-octane, adrenaline fuelled and adventure packed articles you would expect to read from a brand which makes energy drinks and runs Formula One teams. 

But among the stories on extreme sports, like cliff-diving and rock-scaling, are features on more sedate pursuits, lifestyle activities and interviews with high-profile actors and musicians.

The monthly magazine, which is illustrated with stunning images, is distributed in London alongside the Evening Standard newspaper and is also available at universities and gyms.

Subscriptions are also available, while the magazine is backed by its own eye-catching website.

 

The Furrow

 

John Deere began publishing The Furrow long before the term ‘content marketing’ had first been used.

The first issue was published back in 1895 and is widely regarded as being the oldest example of content marketing. The publication is still going strong today with around two million global readers.

The magazine focuses on the farmers themselves and the current issues in farming, providing informative content, rather than promoting the equipment John Deere sells.

Such is its enduring appeal that it is now printed in 14 languages and is available online.

 

ASOS

 

You might think that a printed magazine is an unlikely fit for an online only fashion retailer aimed at the 18-34 crowd.

But ASOS began producing its self-titled magazine in 2007 and celebrated its 100th issue in February this year. It has proved a huge success reaching around 700,000 people globally, 450,000 of these in the UK.

It has attracted stars such as Taylor Swift, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lawrence to its front page and interviews like these prove it is far more than a catalogue.  

This glossy publication is backed by an online audience of more than 120,000.  

 

Traveller

 

In flight magazines first started appearing in cabins more than 60 years ago, when they were introduced by Pan Am, and are one of the oldest versions of brand magazines.

Despite smartphones and Wi-Fi increasingly creeping into planes, these magazines continue to go from strength to strength with around 150 printed around the globe.

United’s offering, Rhapsody, is often cited as an example of a good brand magazine, but unfortunately you’ll only get to read it if you book first class.

Despite its somewhat unimaginative title, easyJet’s Traveller magazine is our pick from the in-flight market.

It is a stylish monthly publication, packed with a wide range of content. A recent edition, for example, ranged from looking at the latest crop of bands to emerge from Liverpool to an article on the charms of Comporta, in Portugal.

And if you miss a copy they are all available digitally on the magazine’s own section of the easyJet website.

 

Waitrose Weekend

 

This breaks the mould of the other publications we’ve mentioned as it is printed in a newspaper format—in fact, when it was first published in 2010 it was the first free newspaper published by a retailer.

The 48 page publication, free every Thursday, has the look of a quality Sunday supplement and all the articles on food, drinks and cooking you would expect in a publication produced by a supermarket and aimed at Middle England. 

But it also features celebrity interviews, a health and fitness section (with Pippa Middleton no less), a guide to events taking place around the country, a gardening section and TV reviews.

And like any good newspaper, it features an impressive number of high-profile columnists including Jeremy Vine, Clare Balding, Stuart Maconie, Jonathan Agnew and Mark Kemode, while Phillip Schofield has a ‘weekend wines’ column.

 

Pineapple

 

This was Airbnb’s glossy move into the world of publishing.

The coffee table production, which came in at a hefty 128 ad free pages, was distributed to the app company’s host network.

It had rather vague aims of being a ‘crossroad of travel and anthropology; a document of community, belonging and shared space’, but nonetheless was well received and covered a wide range of topics, including art, food, culture and style.

But here’s the cautionary tale; despite plans for Pineapple to be published quarterly, there was only ever one edition before the magazine was quietly shelved.

 

At Thirty Seven, we offer content and design services to ensure your campaigns reach the right audiences at the right times. Our journalist led approach ensures your content is interesting, engaging and informative so you gain brand awareness and engagement whether it is social media content or a whitepaper.

 

Emily Stonham
5th November 2018 - 10 mins read

Every company wants to be an authority in their sector - those that engage the media usually are

Media First designs and delivers bespoke media and communications courses that use current working journalists, along with PR and communications professionals, to help you get the most from your communications plan.