The Tools I Use To Create Content
I write a lot. At one point, I was doing around 5,000 words a day, on top of other life things like work, toddler duties, and household things. While there’s no easy shortcut productivity tip I can offer you, here are three tools that I use that helped me become a better writer.
Everyone knows how to write — but composing prose that is succinct takes practice. The issue that many new writers often face is the lack of a feedback loop. There’s no teacher hovering over your shoulder with a red pen, poised and ready to tell you where you’ve gone wrong.
While many of us absorb grammar rules based on our past encounters with the English language, applying them can be a different story completely. It’s the old trap of theory vs. practice. You can’t know you’re doing something wrong if you don’t know that it’s wrong.
Grammarly is anal with telling you where you place your commas. For a long time, I thought I knew how to use the darn thing — but it turns out that there are many little rules that you don’t get taught in school. It’s also great at picking up your typos, spelling, and localization mistakes.
Grammarly picks up the tiny little things that your usual spellchecker doesn’t.
The free version covers my current needs just enough. It also has browser plugins to grammar and spellchecks directly on whatever online editor you’re using.
While Grammarly is everywhere with its ads, ProWritingAid is another spell and grammar option that you can use.
Personally, I use Grammarly as a surface quick check tool. However, if I want to go deeper, then I use ProWritingAid. The major difference between the two is that ProWritingAid has a better in-depth report with style guides and suggestions.
It’s the difference between your high school teacher just marking your essay vs. a targeted in-depth session analyzing your text so you can make it better.
This is because ProWritingAid has more metrics that you can assess your writing against. Some of these metrics are readability, word overuse, sentence structure, and sentence length. There’s more metadata analysis with ProWritingAid than with Grammarly — which is precisely why I like it.
However, I don’t turn on the in-browser checker until the editing stage. In the beginning, I found it somewhat disruptive to my writing flow because it was suggesting edits before I could fully form my thoughts.
ProWritingAid is for when I’ve finished the piece and need a digital pair of eyes to look at what I’ve written.
But when it comes the time to edit, ProWritingAid picks up all the passive voices, overused words, and grades the piece against various readability scores such as Flesch-Kincaid, Coleman-Liau, Automated Readability Index, and Dale-Chall reading grades. The free version of Grammarly is limited and doesn’t offer the same amount of depth as this.
I write a lot — and it’s not just straight plain text either. We’re talking fully formed documentation for teams and general content admin things for software development.
Confluence is horrible to work with if it’s not maintained properly.
Writing text in a code editor can work sometimes — but it’s not that great as a long-term solution in Visual Studio Code. As someone who switches between different workspaces and publishing spaces, I yearned for an editor to just rule them all.
Then I stumbled into Typora.
It’s a desktop based markdown editor that’s simple and beautiful at the same time. It is also highly customizable through CSS, meaning that I can switch to different writing themes based on the kind of content that I’m writing.
For Medium based content, I have a modified version of the GitHub theme. For work-related content, I use another modified GitHub dark theme. For random snippets, brainstorming, and short stories, I use the Whitey theme.
I change my themes because of the slight changes in font, spacing, and background color prime my brain towards the work I’m expected to output. The visual change helps put my brain into the right writing mode and thought process flow.
I also like Typora because it has a clean interface and all my files are easily organizable on my desktop. I can switch folders and files using the sidebar navigation, keep track of my writing by physically moving the files around, and back up my stuff to the cloud through automated syncing.
The best part about Typora is that it’s free.
All the files are written in markdown, which is becoming a universally accepted language for document formatting. This means you don’t have to spend your time configuring your font-size and line heights. All you have to do is mod the CSS or create your own. You can also switch between normal writing mode and markdown, for whatever reason.
Even if you’re not a developer, you can still use Typora. There’s a handful of preset themes that you can choose from.
Most people just use a single grammar and spellchecker. But using two gives me a fresh perspective on how people read my content. The voice inside my brain often makes sense to me, but that’s not guaranteed for my readers. Using Grammarly and ProWritingAid together allowed me to leverage the strengths of both apps. Things that Grammarly doesn’t pick up, ProWritingAid does well and vice versa.
And that’s basically it for the tools I use to write.
Other than that, it’s just the act of sitting down and focusing on turning the words in my brain into digital ink.