Technology can help just about anybody, including journalists and writers. And I am not talking about the tablets, PCs and laptops. I am referring to online tools that help a writer get on with writing and polish it along the way. Here are a few nifty tools that are just what the wordsmiths needed.
What’s your writing style? Are you a metaphor-throwing Ed McBain or the light and frothy PG Wodehouse? Or horror bible Stephen King? Just write a few paragraphs and paste it on this website to know where you fit in. Hit the ‘analyse’ button and within minutes, it will tell you if you are an Ian Fleming in the making or James Joyce. The latter was what they said about the previous paragraph. Just one caution: It might become addictive. Then again, there’s another spoof site that is just as much fun: I Really Write Like (http://www.richardclegg.org/previous/write). We pasted the previous paragraph and it said: “I actually write like an adolescent goth after a heavy night on the absinthe”. Have fun but don’t take everything with a creased forehead.
This tool offers a crash course on how to write clear, direct sentences without muddling up the subject and predicate. It analyses your writing (no matter what length) in a rigid structure and grades your writing. It color codes your writing into blue, purple, orange, green and cyan. It warns you of sentences dripping with adverbs, lengthy phrases and passive voices. The next time you want to polish your piece, you know where to head.
The best writing is simple. So weed out dense sentences, use plain words and score high on readability — there are five grade levels. You might know some of them from MS Word: Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level, Gunning-Fog Score, Coleman-Liau Index, SMOG Index and Automated Readability Index. Quite a mouthful, but all have a similar algorithm that ranks the ease with which you can read your stuff. So a score like 22 means, your writing can only be understood by graduates. Aim for the sixth grader or less. As Albert Einstein once said: “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself’. The site also throws up quite a few statistics that are just as useful. Like the number of characters, syllables, words and sentences in your manuscript. Revelatory, indeed.
Writing a novel or short story? Need some interesting sounding names for your characters? Perhaps, this online tool is just what you need. Pick the gender, language and nationality and the site will throw up a randomly generated identity. Complete with height, birthday, occupation, blood type and more. The only downside? The site can’t suggest Indian names. But what’s the Indian telephone directory for?
Free-writing is like meditation. Pray why? Because you just write, without thinking of grammar, syntax or spelling. It’s just your thoughts on digital paper. And this site allows you to do just that. And only you are privy to it. You get one point for writing something and two points for crossing the 750-word daily yardstick. With charts to show your daily writing progress, it’s a great way to know how fast you write and how good you are at it. Try it even if you are not a writer. As the site’s founder says: “I’ve used the exercise as a great way to think out loud without having to worry about half-formed ideas, random tangents, private stuff, and all the other things in our heads that we often filter out before ever voicing them or writing about them. It’s a daily brain dump.”
~ Zahid Haroon Javali