In a previous post, I reviewed some robust editing tools worth paying for that also help you become a better writer. This post explores free editing tools that aren't as fully-featured but have the advantage of being free to use. In addition, each editing tool offers a unique feature set that you might find irresistible. In alphabetical order, they are:
- Consistency Checker finds mistakes that spelling and grammar checkers won't find.
- Draft is a free, browser-based document creation and collaborative editing tool with a robust feature set and a "human editor" service.
- At this point, it's time to learn a little about Markdown language.
- Hemingway App is a free, browser-based writing tool with a $10 desktop app for Mac & Windows.
- Poetica is a free, browser-based editing tool that also offers a WordPress plugin for collaborative editing of posts and pages.
- WriteMonkey is a distraction-free writing tool that offers extras with a donation.
- Checks consistency, not spelling and grammar
- For Microsoft Office 2013 and Google Docs
- Freemium version of the $99 PerfectIt app
Consistency Checker is a tool that will find the mistakes that your spelling and grammar checkers don't see, such as inconsistent hyphenation (part time vs. part-time) and spelling (color vs. colour). It also finds things like numerals in the middle of sentences, compound words, and abbreviations that appear in two different forms.
It targets long nonfiction document like proposals, grants, and how-to manuals. I wish this kind of tool had existed back when I was a Silicon Valley technical writer! I will definitely run it the next time I edit my how-to book, the Self-Publishing Boot Camp Guide for Authors. What the heck, I'll run it in my narrative nonfiction works, too.
Install it in Word by visiting the Microsoft Office 2013 store. To install it in Google Docs click Add-ons in the toolbar and search for Consistency Checker by PerfectIt. Again from the Add-ons toolbar, click Scan to check your document.
- Writing, editing, and collaboration in the cloud
- Free with donation-based registration for more benefits ($3.99/per month or $39.99/per year)
- Automatically publish to your other web apps
- Hire a human editor
Draft is a writing, editing, collaboration, and publishing tool in the cloud. It was the first browser-based writing and editing tool I ever used, and I appreciated being able to collaborate with others on a single document.
Each contributor’s changes show up in different colors, with accept and reject options. You can mark major revisions, find and revert to previous versions, import docs from Dropbox, Evernote and Google Drive, and publish directly to places like WordPress, Tumblr, LinkedIn, and even your MailChimp email newsletter. They’ve provided a handy Chrome extension that lets you turn any text area on the web into something you can write and edit with Draft.
Draft is great for creating very simple presentations (avoiding PowerPoint syndrome!). You also get a unique email address so that you can email a document, and it will appear in your Draft account. I really like the feature that lets me "comment out" segments of writing so that they're invisible, but I don't lose them. Ditto the “simplify” robot that marks common words, duplicate words, and unimportant sentences. More features include an audio-video transcription tool, analytics, and website builder tool.
Unique to Draft is that you can also hire a human editor to help you in an emergency. Prices are reasonable (considering that editing is so expensive!)
Many free editing tools allow you to format your documents using Markdown language. Don't let the geeky terminology scare you. Markdown (and Markup) is just a simple formatting method for creating bold and italic fonts, headings, links and such.
Draft and WriteMonkey both use Markdown and if you use Scrivener or PressBooks you can export to Markdown. By the way, I've arranged for you to get a discount for PressBooks exports
On a related topic, one of my favorite publishing tools is LeanPub, which uses Markdown language to create books, especially beta books and serial books.
A good workflow would be to write, edit and format in Markdown, and publish it in beta at LeanPub to get feedback from your readers. (You also get their email addresses so you can import them into your MailChimp or other email marketing service.)
LeanPub lets you upload documents and publish iteratively, allowing you to tap the crowd to buy your book before it's finished - therefore making it a kind of crowdfunding platform. Because it's iterative, it's also kind of a blogging tool as well. LeanPub features pay-what-you-want-pricing so you can set your book from free to hundreds of dollars on a sliding scale. Cool, huh?
- Writing and basic copyediting tool
- Browser-based is free
- Desktop app for Mac and Windows for $10
Hemingway is a distraction-free writing tool that displays a row of formatting elements across the top for bold, italics, bulleting, numbering, headings, and links. Slide it from WRITE mode into EDIT and you'll get a clean, visual take on what might be wrong with your writing. The word and character counters are also very handy.
With the $10 desktop app for Mac and Windows you can import and export your text to Word, and export as HTML or Markdown language for your blogging platform, WordPress, or CMS files.
Some people like to write and edit in Hemingway and then import them into a tool called StackEdit, a browser-based Markdown editor, though you could easily use any of the other tools I've already mentioned.
- Browser-based editing tool using traditional copyediting marks
- WordPress plugin for collaborating on posts and pages
- Creates writing groups and integrates teams created with the Slack app
Poetica is a free cloud-based editing tool that uses traditional copy editing marks and a friendly script font that makes it a little more fun to use than other tools. The company was started by Twitter's former founding engineer, Blaine Cook.
Upload a document or create a plain text document or one that uses Markdown language. Then invite collaboration by clicking a share button.
Poetica's WordPress plugin creates a toggle switch that lets you turn off and on the default WordPress text editor on your site. In Poetica mode, you can invite multiple editors to collaborate on your posts and pages. I think it's an excellent way to manage a group blog and to work with guest bloggers to your site.
You can also create a writing group with your own Poetical URL where the whole team can add and edit documents. If you already use the Slack app to communicate with an editorial team, you can invite them to join the group.
- Distraction Windows desktop writing app
- Donations unlock more features
The WriteMonkey folks describe their Windows desktop app as "zenware" for writers. Like Hemingway and Draft, WriteMonkey offers a stripped-down, distraction-free writing environment. You can customize your background, font, and what you see in the toolbar, such as word count, with a progress bar and the current time.
More advanced features are available as well, such as the ability to manage separate chapter files in a book-length work using a "Jumps" feature.
You write in simple text, formatting using Markdown language or the Textile markup language if you like. You can export to HTML and upload it to the web as a page or a blog post.
Like some of the other tools, WriteMonkey is supported by donations. Your donation gives you access to many plugins that are available separately.
Each of these free editing tools offers something special that may help you decide which one might work best for you. You can use them in addition to the tools available in your word processor and the paid editing tools that I reviewed in my previous post. I'd like to hear about the tools that you use and your editing workflow, in the comments below.
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