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

The unsexy content which needs to be part of your communications strategy

Adam Fisher 13th February 2018 — 4 mins read
O

ther forms of content, such as the less formal eBooks, blogs, infographics and interactive games appear more exciting and attractive and ultimately seem to have become more popular.

You could be forgiven for thinking, therefore, that whitepapers have had their day and are just another victim of digital progression.

But there is another school of thought – one which we subscribe to at Thirty Seven – that whitepapers are alive and well and continue to play a crucial part in effective content marketing strategies.

In fact, we believe they have an integral role in providing the comprehensive, detailed material which is all too often missing in other parts of content marketing.

It is the perfect long-form content medium in which to position a brand as a genuine authority in its field and take a deep look at the issues which matter to its clients and potential customers.

Here are a few more of its strengths:

Whitepapers have longevity

A whitepaper which successfully tackles an important issue will be saved and printed out and people will refer back to it again and again when they make important decisions.

Whitepapers are shared

They may not go viral in the social media sense, but whitepapers are typically shared by colleagues and teams and can travel extensively within just one organisation, greatly increasing the size of the audience and spreading awareness of your brand. My boss, for example, will regularly share whitepapers with me that he has downloaded and found useful and I often pass these on to other colleagues and even people in other organisations.

Content that can be reused

A common concern organisations often have about whitepapers is that they require considerable time and effort for just one piece of content. But actually that isn’t the case. A good whitepaper can typically be sliced and diced into a series of blogs. Not only is this fresh content, but each resulting blog can be used to encourage the reader to download the whitepaper for detailed analysis of the wider issue.

Whitepapers create strong leads

Whitepapers are not for the casual reader – they require too big a time commitment from the consumer for that. So, when someone signs-up to receive a whitepaper they are looking for a solution to a particular problem and they are trusting your organisation to provide it.

If whitepapers have all these benefits, how can you ensure yours doesn’t fall into the ‘unsexy’ trap?

Tackle a topic which matters to your audience

As with all content marketing, understanding your audience and the issues that matter to them is pivotal.

For your whitepaper to gain the interest of your customers it needs to tackle both an issue they want to be resolved and offer a unique perspective.

This involves detailed research, information being verified and experts being interviewed - and a clearly communicated argument.

Improve the visual

One key way to improve the image of whitepapers is to make them look visually better. Page after page of text is only going to cause readers to lose interest and stop reading, no matter how well it is written.

Photographs, infographics, charts, pull-out quotes and even coloured boxes all have a role to play in adding a creative touch and making whitepaper content more visually appealing.

Length

Even though whitepapers are long-form content a careful eye needs to be kept on length.

A 10-15 page document should easily be enough to construct a credible and persuasive argument and will be much more digestible and less daunting than something double that length.

This means that writing needs to be sharp, concise and waffle free.

Use variety to spice it up

If you’ve already got whitepapers as part of your content, try using different templates and styles to make new ones stand out. Find different ways for readers to test what they have learnt in different sections of the paper, add bullet point summaries after specific sections and use different layouts.

Produce an attention-grabbing headline

No matter how strong the content of your whitepaper you still need to find a way of ensuring you customers are going to read it.

The headline is key to ensuring that your whitepaper stands-out, generates curiosity and promises the solution to a problem.

Enable people to preview whitepapers before they download

Allowing customers to preview a few sample pages of the whitepaper before they need to enter their details and download it is a great way to entice readers and highlight the quality of your document. If it is good enough for Amazon and the books they sell then I think it is something we should all consider.

Check out this example we created for Every Angle.

Whitepapers may not be sexy. They may not provoke instant excitement. But get them right and your customers will find them hard to resist.


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.

Adam Fisher
16th May 2018 - 7 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.