Nowhere is the clarity and efficiency of communication as important as it is in business writing. Unlike in most other cases, it is usually a collaborative effort, which means that special requirements apply to the tools used for that purpose. When you work on an essay or a paper, you can simply sit down and write it from the beginning to the end, no problem. However, when you work on a piece of business writing, you have to think about planning it and working in parallel with other members of your team. You will have a hard time doing it if your idea of collaboration is sending a single Word file back and forth and asking for an opinion. There are hundreds of tools that can make your job easier – and in this article, we’ve collected some of the best, so that you do not have to evaluate them yourself.
1. Google Docs
Let’s start with something simple, obvious and cheap or, rather, free. The first thing you need for collaborative business writing is an environment that would be easily accessible for all members of the team. Google Docs is exactly this – it is free for everybody who has a Google account, does not require any additional software, and allows its users to share notes online as well as write and edit documents collaboratively in real-time.
Before you and your team can begin a full-scale writing project, you have to create, manage and organize the ideas you will use in your work. Again, when you work alone, it is easily done with a pen and a sheet of paper. But when you are a part of a team, and not all members of said team are present all the time, you need an online tool. Enter Freemind – a free mind-mapping tool that will help you create a visual representation of the ideas that will later lay the foundations of your writing. This will ensure that your texts are always logically constructed.
While Freemind and other mind-mapping apps are indispensable for organizing ideas, Evernote is one of the best tools for collecting and keeping track of them. You can use it to write down useful thoughts, and gather information about the sources you use in research. You can clip notes from the Internet, and include pictures, graphs, files, audio, and video in your notes. You will no longer have to wrack your brains, thinking, “What’s wrong with me, I have no idea where I put my notes on sales statistics”, as Evernote has excellent search capabilities.
4. Grammarly and Other Grammar-Checking Tools
Whether you write your texts yourself or hire somebody to do it for you, you can benefit from editing and proofreading. While hiring a professional proofreader is the best solution, grammar-checking tools like Grammarly and others of its kind can be useful as well, especially if you are particularly bad at grammar and syntax. They are not particularly good at catching more complex mistakes but can help you weed out blatant errors and typos. Also, keep in mind this – if you hire somebody to write your texts, it does not free you from the need to check their grammar. When you ask somebody, “Do my essay for me cheap”, it does not mean that the writer is incapable of missing a mistake or two.
One of the ways to keep your business writing more varied and interesting is to replace overused words with synonyms, at least occasionally. It is especially useful if you work in a niche that is heavily dependent on repeating the same words over and over again – varying your texts a bit will add life to them. Just make sure you do not start overusing the thesaurus instead, replacing words with synonyms for the sake of replacement itself. Be especially careful about using big, polysyllabic, obscure words – it is a bad idea all around, and doubly so when it comes to business writing. Business writing thrives on short and powerful words when they are properly used.
6. Microsoft’s Readability Tool
A readability score is a somewhat abstract metric that shows how easy it is for somebody to read and understand your text. All versions of Microsoft Word have the Readability Tool built-in, and while you should take its results with a grain of salt, it can be a good indication of the overall quality of your business writing. It shows four important characteristics:
- Words per sentence. Usually the lower the more readable, although it does not mean that you should strive to make your sentences as short as possible. Instead, try to vary their length;
- Passive voice score. The lower, the better, although again, it does not mean that you should mechanically eliminate all instances of passive voice. Sometimes it is exactly what you need;
- The Flesch Reading Ease (FRE). The higher, the better. Strive for a score of 60 or more. The most common way to increase it is to use shorter sentences;
- Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level (FKGL). Indicates the number of years of education expected to be needed to understand the text. E.g., a score of 8.5 means that the text is understandable by an average student in 8th grade. Please note that it indicates not the content complexity but the clarity of language. Aim for a score of 8 to 10 for normal texts and 10 to 12 for more complex documents.
7. Hemingway App
This app, aptly named after Ernest Hemingway, is used to point out overly complex sentences and words, awkward sentence structures, passive voice, unnecessary adverbs, and other kinds of language that bloat up your writing. As we’ve already said, business writing should aim to be short, to the point, and energetic – which is exactly why you should try to eliminate as much bloat as possible. However, do not fall into the trap of doing it mechanically. Not all adverbs are unnecessary, passive voice is sometimes indispensable, and you sometimes have to use long complex words because they are the best way to express a particular thought.
One of the easiest ways to ensure you are using the right version of English, is to cut and paste your blog post or writing on FixSpell, and it will easily convert US English to UK (International) English, or the other way around. No more having to approve each word change one at a time. This tool will change the English language of a 2,500 word article in less than 20 seconds.
There are many ways to make your business writing easier, faster, and more effective. We hope that these apps will become a welcome addition to your writing toolbox!
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