“Suzanne, I have the perfect online writing tool for you.”
I receive many emails from people telling me about an excellent new app, tool, or website for writers or students. Some of these online tools and resources are free, some are inexpensive, and some are an investment. They all solve a problem (or at least aim to).
Since I tutor academic writing online, I try all kinds of writing technology, see how things work, and experiment. My goal? Find things that make the academic writing process easier and improve the quality of an essay, paper, or another project. Only a small number of tools and websites are my go-to choices.
Today, I’m sharing my favorite 5 free online tools that will help you achieve your writing goals.
Let’s look at how they can help you.
My 5 Favorite Free Online Writing Tools
#1 Jamboard for Prewriting
Jamboard https://jamboard.google.com/ Jamboard is a Google Extension you can use to help you develop and plan out your writing ideas. It is perfect for prewriting because you can brainstorm and organize ideas using “sticky notes.” There are 2 ways I use Jamboard for writing.
The first way is to come up with writing ideas. To do this, start with an open-ended question like: What can I write? Type every idea you have on an electronic sticky note. You can change the color and size of the sticky notes and move them around in any order. Here’s an example of a Jamboard with my ideas for writing a personal narrative.
The second prewriting activity you can use Jamboard for is to develop ideas on a topic. I use the boards for creating a blog post or essay content. Create sticky notes for main ideas using one color; then, add supporting details to each of those main ideas on sticky notes of a different color.
Here’s an example of some ideas I have for a blog post. You can see all my supporting details are in yellow, and my main topics are in aqua.
There are other fun things you can do, such as change the background color and draw a line with a pen. Jamboard is simple to use, flexible, and creative.
#2 Internet Archive for Online Research
Internet Archive https://archive.org/ is an online public library with free books, videos, articles, websites, and audio files. It has millions of sources from libraries all over the world. You can find excellent credible primary and secondary sources.
Type into the search bar your topic, title, or author or perform an advanced search where you can specify the words contained, date range, author, and types of media.
I use Internet Archive to find a lot of sources for teaching and writing. My students love using it for research because they have access to many different types of media. When I create Google Classrooms for my students, I always include Internet Archive as a top resource.
#3 Google Docs for Writing and Revising
Google Docs https://docs.google.com/ is similar to MS Word when it comes to composing, revising, editing, and publishing writing. Where Google Docs differs from MS Word is that you can write, comment, and edit a document with other people at the same time.
You can use Google Docs with every aspect of writing, from brainstorming to publishing a final draft. Writing is interactive. Another feature of Google Docs is that it is easy to download a file in a PDF or MS Word format.
In 2019, Google changed Google Docs so that you can upload an MS Word document and edit it like a Google Doc. For information about it, check out https://ww.w.google.com/docs/about/.
The other advantage of Google Docs? It’s free.
#4 Google Classroom for Collaboration and Writing Groups
Google Classroom https://classroom.google.com/ has been a favorite tool of mine ever since it was available to anyone with a Google Account. Before 2017, you could only use Google Classroom if your school district used it.
Since anyone with a Google account can create a classroom, writing groups can use a Google Classroom to share resources organized by topics and add writing for others to read. You can post anything in the stream from an attachment, video, link, or something in Google Drive and email members of a group.
I use it with my tutoring students as a place to upload resources, share documents, and communicate with them through the stream. I also assign writing homework through Google Classroom. Below is a glimpse of a writing classroom I created.
To create a class, go to https://classroom.google.com/, or select your Google Classroom app, go to the right side and click on the + sign and select “Create a class.” A box will pop-up where you can create the name of your class or group. Type your information and select “create.” Next, invite group members by sending them an email or the class code. Start adding materials for your group.
Check out this post and see how to create an amazing academic writing group https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/how-to-become-an-amazing-academic-writing-group/
#5 Grammarly for Editing
Grammarly https://app.grammarly.com/ is a powerful grammar and spelling checker you can use with MS Windows, Google Chrome, and Microsoft Office. It has both a free and a premium version. The free version of Grammarly looks for spelling, grammar, and punctuation mistakes. It also tries to sense your tone and checks for conciseness in your writing.
The premium version also analyzes fluency and readability, checks for plagiarism, and detects the confidence, politeness, inclusiveness, and formality of your writing. My favorite thing Grammarly premium does is offer alternative vocabulary that gives my writing more variety. (I have this awful habit of overusing the words “great,” “amazing,” and “wonderful.”)
Grammarly premium costs $139. 95 annually. There are monthly and quarterly pricing plans too.
I used the free version for two years before signing-up for Grammarly Premium (which I do love). I feel the editing and feedback in Grammarly Premium are valuable because I am always writing. When deciding between a free account and the premium account, think about how much writing you do and how much feedback you want. Also, consider whether or not you have another person reading over your writing. If so, the free version will suit you.
Want to see other free online tools for editing? Check out my blog post, “8 Fantastic Free Online Editing Tools” https://www.academicwritingsuccess.com/8-free-online-editing-tools-for-writing-excellent-research-papers/.
Beyond Online Writing Tools
The best resource for writing is human—you and your ideas, along with other peoples’ comments. As you try out writing resources or technology, remember they assist you with a problem—they don’t solve it alone.
You grow as a writer by practicing writing and learning from others. Focus on these actions and add online writing tools that help you do 2 things: write and get helpful feedback.
Do you want to advance your writing skills and knowledge?
Sign up for a free consultation and see how online tutoring can help you become an excellent academic writer!