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Beyond Spellcheck: 7 Web Tools That Check for Empathy, Inclusivity and More

Of all the things that have been known to keep me awake at night, one of the repeat offenders is thinking of times when I’ve said the totally wrong thing to a person. That¬†embarrassment of putting my foot in my mouth or just rubbing someone the wrong way tends to linger long past the initial moment.

Luckily, technology is working on making these sleepless nights a thing of the past!

I’m always on the lookout for writing tools that can help me communicate more clearly and empathetically¬†online, and quite a few have hit my radar recently. Here’s a look at 7. Happy writing!

7 web writing tools

1. Crystal: See personality profiles before you hit ‘send’

crystal

Site: crystalknows.com

Price: Free trial, then $19/month to $50/month

Use for: More empathetic communication

How it works:¬†Crystal scours the web to¬†create unique personality profiles for anyone¬†with an online presence. When you go to email someone (or even tweet at them, if you use the extension!), you can check out Crystal’s assessment to make sure your communication is ideal for your subject. Plus it’s fun to see what Crystal thinks about you based on your online presence. :)

I enjoyed¬†checking our Crystal profiles so much that I thought I’d share a slideshow of a few Buffer team members:



2. Alex: Check your language for potential inclusivity issues

Alex

Site: alexjs.com

Price: Free

Use for: More inclusive communication

How it works:¬†Alex helps you discover any opportunities in your writing to remove¬†gender favoritism, racially insensitive language¬†other unequal phrasing.¬†Enter a chunk of text ¬†in the demo field to try it out, or install it using npm. There’s also an integration with Slack!

3. Foxtype: How polite is your message?

 foxtype

Site: labs.foxtype.com/politeness

Price: Free

Use for: More polite communication

How it works:¬†Foxtype wants to make sure your message is as kind as possible. To test it out, paste your text in the box, and hit “Check Tone”.¬†Foxtype¬†will scan your message, tell you how polite your note¬†reads, and offer a list of possible changes. You can also grab a¬†Gmail¬†extension if you give Foxtype your¬†email!

4. Hemingway: Make your writing stronger

Hemingway Editor

Site: hemingwayapp.com

Price: Free on the web or $10 for desktop app 

Use for: Clearer communication

How it works:¬†The Hemingway Editor keeps your writing simple, clear and concise by highlighting too-lengthy¬†sentences in yellow and “more egregious” ones in red.¬†It also notes¬†adverbs, passive voice, and overly¬†complicated words so you can have the opportunity to rewrite.¬†Paste in something you’re working on¬†to give it a try.

5. Writefull: Real-time language help and feedback

Site: writefullapp.com

Price: $5/month or $25/year

Use for: Language help as you write

How it works: Writefull plugs into nearly any tool you might use for writing and uses uses large language databases (Google Books and Google Web) to search for the frequency of chunks of text. Highlight any text you’re not sure of and Writefull can help by doing things like:

  • Checking how often your selected text is found in the language database
  • Offering¬†examples of selected text in Wikipedia or on the web
  • Sharing¬†which words are used most often in a gap in your text
  • Seeing which synonyms of a given word are used most often in your text

6. Grammarly Extension: Smart grammar and spelling checker

grammarly spell checker

Site: grammarly.com 

Price: Free

Use for: Grammar and spelling checks

How it works: Go beyond the standard spellcheck with Grammarly, which integrates contextual spelling and grammar checks, a thesaurus, and dictionary directly into everywhere you write online. (It flags more than 250 types of errors!).

7. ProWritingAid: Comprehensive writing editor and plagiarism checker

ProWriting Aid
Site: prowritingaid.com

Price: Free to $40/year

Use for: Overall editing of writing

How it works:¬† In need of a second pair of eyes on your work when no one’s around? ProWritingAid is the second best thing, checking for all sorts of stuff like sentence length, overused words, clich√©s, “corporate wording” and much more. Paid plans also include a plagiarism checker that searches over a billion web-pages, published works, and academic papers.

Share your top tools!

These are just a few of the tools I’ve been checking out lately. I’d love to hear what your go-to tools and apps might be to make sure your communication is smart, clear and empathetic. Share your favorite picks in the comments!

  • OMG Courtney, this collection is awesome! Exactly what I’m looking for at the moment. I personally like Hemingway (yes the author, too) which provides several insights. Like checking your contents readability, estimated reading time, word count, your use of adverbs or passive language and so on. Check it out: http://www.hemingwayapp.com/

  • Been using Grammarly a little more these days. The Hemingway app is interesting. I find an editor also helps, but no app for those :)

  • Juliet

    This is an amazing list, Courtney! I LOVE the concept behind Crystal, and will definitely give it a try! Curious if the team members featured there find the analysis to be true? :D Really want to try Alex and Foxtype as well. Hemingway has been a great help for me as well :) Thank you so much for sharing these! :D

    • I found mine to be fairly accurate and also tried it out on a teammate I was eating lunch with (Jim), who I’d say maybe gave it about an 80% accuracy rate for him. So fascinating!

  • Sara Oberg

    Woah! Now I’m beyond curious about more Crystal profiles (including my own). Invite request sent. Great list Courtney!

  • Wow! Crystal looks awesome, though ever so slightly creepy! Also I think you’ve just saved me countless hours of worry with Foxtype! Good job!

  • Erin Knothe

    I’m definitely going to be checking out Crystal now! It sounds a little like a DISC profile. Thanks for the list, Courtney! I’m glad I’m not the only one up at night thinking about those things.

    • Cool, I’d love to hear if you find your profile to be accurate!

      • Erin Knothe

        It turned out to be fairly accurate! I would agree with your coworker who said it was 80% on point. I thought it was interesting that most of the attributes I found inaccurate were in the “It does not come natural to Erin to” section.

  • Oh, Courtney, what a great list. I love it! I would be so happy to share some tools with you, but you’ve named them all! You’re a content goddess! I use Grammarly , Hemingway and now I’ll start using the FoxType too, especially the Thesaurus feature.

  • Sridhar Rajendran

    I have been an ardent user of Grammarly for the past few months. I use the web version to check for the grammar and mistakes before posting on my blog. Their Chrome extension works quite well too and comes in handy while writing emails. Plus the weekly newsletter with a report of the mistakes I made and other nice articles to improve writing makes it a must use app.

    • Those are some cool features; thanks for sharing a bit more depth, Sridhar!

  • These look like amazing tools. I can’t wait to try some of them out. Crystal sounds interesting, curious to see what it would say about me.

  • Lombok Wander

    Is there something free of charge?
    http://lombokwandertour.com

  • Joy-Aisling

    Hemingway is my absolute favourite. Long sentences are my kryptonite! I have a dreadful habit of working through things as I type them, rather than thinking my way to the end of a sentence first. Hemingway is such a clean visual aid to ensuring that my text is nice and crisp.

    Foxtype and Alex look particularly interesting, too, I’m definitely going to give them a go! And I love the idea of ProWritingAid – I regularly wonder if a ‘good phrase’ is actually just a familiar one that I can’t quite remember reading somewhere else.

    What I generally do to check that my text sounds appropriately understanding is to read it out loud before I hit ‘send’. If I wouldn’t actually say it that way when talking to a person, I re-phrase! I like my emails to sound as if I’m actually saying them to someone – it feels much more human!

  • :)

  • Deborah Tolley

    Courtney, thanks for creating such a great list of writing tools! From the list of tools that you mentioned, I tried Hemingway and Grammarly, but I need to admit that Fowtype and Crystal look really promising. I will check them to create my own opinion on how they work.

    Besides, I wanted to add that Grammarly except of grammar and spelling features has plagiarism checker in the paid version. But I used this version and discovered that it works not so good as I want. It missed some parts of plagiarized content (yes, I purposely copy some text from two random blogs and pasted it in the Grammarly working box to see the results) and show me only 1 source of duplicated content, which is not comfortable for everyday use. For searching duplicated parts in writing, I use the Unplag plagiarism checker https://unplag.com/ It works much better, especially with the exclusion of citations and references.

  • I didn’t know Grammarly had an extension!!
    I’ve never heard of most of the rest of these, but they all look super neat! Hemingway is especially intriguing. Thanks for sharing, Courtney!

  • Philippe Doyle Gray

    Your list was just shared with me and I love it. I coincidentally have been using Grammarly for a couple of months and its killer feature is that, while suggesting changes, it briefly explains why it made those suggestions, and offers a mouse-click to a longer explanation if you’re interested. I discovered that these longer explanations end up teaching me grammar. Abstract rules in school are now practical demonstrations in my work; it’s like having your English teacher right beside you. I’m not simply writing better, I’m also learning.

  • Kirrily Weatherstone

    Thank you for this incredibly helpful list! I’m constantly amazed by new innovations like this that seem to transcend what machines were once thought capable of doing. I’m familiar with Grammarly but others I was unaware of and thrilled to learn about. If I may offer you some unrelated feedback, although I have already signed up for the Blogger newsletter, I still receive the prompt to sign up every time I view a new post. Perhaps you could flag this with your developers so that once somebody has signed up they no longer receive this message. Just a thought and thanks again for the useful list of tools :)

  • Roberta

    Try Ludwig out! http://beta.ludwig.guru/
    Is the first smart translator and linguistic search engine!

  • Anna Olinger

    That is a great list of apps, thanks, I will definitely check these out.
    Sometimes when I need a great content and not sure if I could craft it myself I use custom writing services (like http://www.papersgear.com/ and http://www.essayscapital.com/ ), even though the prices are not exactly cheap but I am always sure of the content I get. So, if you need to craft an email pitch and afraid of mistakes, ordering content is a great idea.

  • Veronica B.

    I already use Grammarly and Hemingway – along with plagiarism checker they compose my everyday writing tools collection. Never heard of such kind of services like Alex and Foxtype, but looks very interesting, will definitely try. Thanks for collecting!

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