8 Indispensable Tools Every Content Writer Needs
Photo: wikipedia.org

“The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.”
– Confucius

As content writers, it’s our mission to concept, research, structure, write, edit, proofread, and publish gems of content marketing brilliance, day after day, week after week. We need to do it efficiently and we need to do it consistently … while still maintaining our standards of quality.

It’s not a task for the faint of heart. It is a task for savvy professionals who have the right tools — and know how to use them.

Here are eight of my personal favorite tools that help me accomplish all the various tasks on my content writing to-do list. No sharpening required.

1. Evernote

Ever notice how the best ideas come to you when you’re anywhere but your desk? Sure, when you woke up in the middle of the night with the perfect headline for your blog post, you jotted it down … on the inside cover of your bedside paperback. Fat lot of good it does you when you’re sitting in the office the next day, eh?

With Evernote, you can create online notebooks that sync beautifully between your computer, your smartphone, and your tablet. It’s the perfect place for jotting down those out-of-the-blue notions — even has an audio note feature for hands-free chronicling — and pulling them down from the cloud whenever and wherever you need them.

2. Feedly

When it comes to finding shareable content — or researching our own — we tend to go back to the same sources over and over again. With Feedly, you can set up feeds from your favorite sources and organize them by topic. Then each time you log on, you’ll see the latest feeds from those sources, which you can then bookmark, share, email, or even save to Pocket (see #3 below).

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3. Pocket

You’re surfing around the Web when you find the perfect data for your next blog post. You make a mental note to come back to it when you’re ready to rock and roll. When you’re ready to write, you search for that source and … it’s nowhere to be found.

With Pocket, you have an online vault where you can store and tag individual Web pages and access them whenever you need them. A mobile app is also available for snagging and retrieving Web pages on your smartphone or tablet.

4. XMind

Mind-mapping is one of the most effective methods of generating and organizing ideas, and XMind offers all the features you need to create intuitive mind maps for your next piece of content brilliance.

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5. Google Keyword Planner

Sure, Google’s Keyword Planner is great for deciding which keywords go into your title and body copy, but it’s also handy for generating ideas. Type in a general subject (like “online video”), then click the “Keyword Ideas” tab on the results page to see different keyword combinations (like “online video streaming” and “online video editors”) that can fuel future post topics. Make sure to record the most relevant ideas in Evernote for easy access. (Bonus tool: Ubersuggest is another good resource for generating ideas through keyword research.)

6. Scrivener

When you’re ready to start writing, you’d do well to reach for Scrivener before you reach for Microsoft Word. It does come with a price tag ($40 for Windows, $45 for Mac), but it more than pays for itself in terms of saved time and frustration.

What I love about Scrivener is that it accommodates the non-linear nature of the writing process. It makes it easy to get your basic ideas down, flesh them out, organize them, rearrange them, and then export the final product into Word. Perfect for those long-format content projects like ebooks and white papers.

7. AP Stylebook Online

Should the word email have a hyphen or not? On the second mention of a person’s name, should you use the first name or the last name?

These are all stylistic judgment calls, but when in doubt, there’s always the Associated Press Stylebook. It’s been the go-to resource for journalists for decades, and it will serve you well.

8. Prompts

Prompts is a nifty little mobile app that helps unjam the gears of creativity. Start typing your sentence and click the lightning bolt to get a random suggestion for finishing it — like “Focus on only the next word” or “What if it were opposite?” It comes in especially handy for those wee-hours-of-the-morning writing sessions when your creative mojo is starting to run dry.

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OK, folks, I’ve shared my favorite content writing tools — what’s in YOUR toolbox? Share your secret weapons with us in the Comments. We’d love to hear from you!