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Let’s be real: writing well in English isn’t usually our first priority.
Still, writing is important.
Writing well enables you to organise and refine your ideas. If you work in English, it’ll help you communicate effectively with your colleagues.
Writing is also a great way to save up and track your progress. Nothing is as good at showing you how far your English has come as comparing a letter you wrote today with one you wrote last year.
Not only that, learning to write well can also help you speak well. A 2015 study provided evidence that there is a link between speaking and writing: getting better at one helps us improve the other. So learning to write well may also help your speaking skills.
But writing can be hard. Luckily, there’s a bunch of online tools that can help you write well.
Here’s our list of the best free tools to improve your writing in English. These will help you write like a boss regardless of your level. Heck, they even help me and I’m a native speaker!
Grammarly is one of my all-time favourite writing tools, and a must-have for any non-native speaker.
Its focus is on a deep grammar analysis. It helps you identify more than 250 types of grammatical mistakes, spelling errors, and poor usage of vocabulary. It also provides suggestions for fixing your text and making it more readable.
The basic version is free and it corrects all critical errors. It's probably all you need, but if you want really advanced suggestions then there's also a paid version.
Just remember that while Grammarly is powerful and useful, it’s not always right. Use your discretion when taking its advice.
God bless Google Translate. If Google Translate is not the most useful tool out there for a language learner, I don’t know what is.
Google Translate allows you to check a word’s meaning, its synonyms, and even the pronunciation of a word or sentence. You can type directly into the web app, or copy and paste the text you need from your word processor. You can even translate an entire page or website as well on your browser.
Another way to use Google Translate is to combine it with your smartphone. You can use the audio recorder to train your own pronunciation after listening to the correct one on Google, and then comparing it with your own audio. You can even translate photos.
Google Translate is perfect for all levels: whether you’re just beginning in English and need to translate a whole text, or if you’re an English pro, but just need to check a piece of vocabulary. If you’re not already using this super helpful tool, I encourage you to give it a shot.
The Heminway app is an app that aims to make your writing as clear and powerful as the famous American writer Ernest Hemingway. It helps you identify grammar and spelling mistakes, sentences that are difficult to read, and sentences in the passive voice.
How does it work?
- Copy and paste your text into the editor and the Hemingway app will tell you what to improve.
- There’s a readability marker to the right. The readability marker gauges the lowest education required to understand your writing. A score of six indicates that a sixth grader can understand your writing.
- There will be a series of indicators regarding your text. These will identify opportunities for improvement. Make revisions if you think they are appropriate.
This app is free, although there is a paid version that has more features.
4. Grammar Girl
Grammar Girl is the source for grammar questions.
Besides being full of interesting pieces of information (ever wondered about where spelling bees came from?), it has tonnes of great resources for helping you understand grammar rules and write better. It features blog posts explaining punctuation, word usage and grammar.
(And, if you really love grammar, she also has a podcast!).
5. A Dictionary and a Thesaurus
These are essential writing tools. A dictionary helps you understand what a word means and how to spell it. A thesaurus helps you find synonyms and antonyms—words that mean the same thing, or the opposite thing.
Knowing the words and how to properly apply them, as well as the different ways you can say something with a different word is absolutely essential for writing.
A good dictionary and thesaurus will help you find the absolute best words for your writing.
For dictionaries to look up a single word, I often use Dictionary.com and Merriam Webster. For a thesaurus, I usually use Thesaurus.com. If you want to look up English idioms, try The Idioms. If you’re trying to find the meaning of slang words, try the Urban Dictionary.
If you haven't listened to it yet, you should check out our episode on How to Use a Dictionary (Properly).
One downside of traditional dictionaries is that it’s difficult to know how the words are related to each other.
Visuwords is basically a dictionary that shows you, visually, the relationship between a word and other words. This tool helps you learn through visual association with other words, making use of your imagination and visual memory. This tool allows you to improve your English writing skills by allowing you to type words, and see their spelling, phonetic changes and how to apply them.
7. Online Writing Communities
The second last free tool to improve your writing in English that I’ll share is the multitude of online writing communities. These are filled with people who are willing to provide you feedback on your writing to make it better.
Making use of this great resource—other people—is one of the best ways to really improve your writing.
Here are a couple places you can find English writing communities:
Keep in mind that these tend to be for serious writers, perhaps better for a more advanced level. Still, joining an online community can help you stay motivated to write and get better at it.
8. A Journal
This is maybe the easiest and most powerful tool to get better at writing: a journal. A journal is just a book where you can write about anything: your day, your feelings, your dreams, your goals, and more. You can even use it to write down any new vocabulary that you learn as you progress through your English journey.
A journal is powerful because it’s personal. Writing is, in general, difficult… but writing about ourselves can be easier than other kinds of writing.
Don’t forget to read
As a last point, I’ll just remind you that one of the best ways to improve your writing is by reading.
Reading widely helps you:
- See how English is written by professional writers. Sometimes our writing style reflects our native tongue; for example, Italians writing in English tend to have long, complex sentences. Reading in English can give you a sense of the kinds of styles that are used in English and will help you develop your own English writing style.
- Appreciate writing for a variety of media and audiences. Reading widely will help you see the difference between, say, writing for a journalistic style that you might see in a newspaper, a more casual style that you might see in a blog, academic writing style, and so on. Reading a variety of writing will help you be a more flexible writer yourself.
- Enjoy learning to write. The best part about reading is that it’s enjoyable. It’s a fun way to improve your writing, and with the right book, it won’t feel like you’re studying. It’ll be a pleasure.
Writing without reading is like speaking without listening. You need to read to write well. Learning to consume English texts will help you ultimately produce them.
Don’t just write and don’t just read. Do both.
Practice Makes Progress
Writing may not always be our first choice of skill to focus on, but it’s important. Writing well in English will help you in school, work, and to just generally express yourself.
What’s the best way to get better at writing? Write. Practice makes progress.
I’ve given you a list of the best free tools that you can use to improve your writing. Don’t be afraid of trying them out. As always, at the end of the day, choose the ones that work best for you.
And then practice!