Quickly create maps that represent the structure of your documents. Freemind is a free mind-mapping (also called concept mapping) tool that will create a visual representation of an idea, and all the interconnected links. If you do any analytical writing at work, this tool is invaluable. For report and proposal writing, this tool is indispensable.
A good mind-mapping tool must be simple to use because you need to map as fast as your mind is firing or you’ll lose that wonderful interconnectivity of ideas. Freemind is simple to use. It will import into proprietary products like MindManager, so your information will never be trapped inside Freemind alone. Our video tutorial will show you how to use this helpful tool in less than ten minutes.
Mindmeister is another paid mind mapping tool that is particularly helpful to develop maps collaboratively. Collaborate online with someone or share a map for review, much like Google Docs, with no need for file transfer.
Evernote is one of my most used tools. I’d be lost without it.
Store all the random ideas and information you want to save for both work and home. For me, that’s research, course improvement ideas, writing quotes that I like, recipes, yoga sequences, a photo of a nice bottle of wine at dinner, or travel inspiration articles. Evernote is a well organized memory holder with fantastic search capability. Clip notes from the web, store a picture, a file, or an audio file reminding yourself about an insight.
For example, I vaguely remember reading something interesting about formatting information in tables in reports. When I search “format reports,” my notes on WiT (words in tables) that I took at a conference and an article I saved from the Internet pops right up. Similarly, if I have too much kale in the refrigerator, I can search “kale” to pull all my recipes that contain kale.
Create multiple notebooks and tag anything to cross-reference easily.
Evernote is indispensable to a business writer. It will help you contain the deluge of information we all face and retrieve it when you need it.
The free version of Hubspot sales your last 200 emails sent and alerts you when a recipient opens an email or clicks on a link. It’s very helpful to determine if you need to follow up. The free version includes five email templates.
Rapportive was a much-loved free tool that was purchased by LinkedIn and is no longer available. Hubspot Sales add-on now provides the same features, instantly giving you contextual information about contacts right inside your inbox.
When you receive an email from someone, Hubspot Sales appears on the right side of your screen and names the sender, states their position and company, identifies the sender's location, and shares LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Skype, and website links.
Instantly gain contextual information about your email contacts to ensure you provide the information they need.
It's is a bit big-brother-watching, but millions of people use this add-on tool to streamline email communication and help develop a better rapport with contacts.
Gmail calls their template tool “canned responses.” It’s a handy feature if you repeatedly send a similar message.
Of course, be sure to update any email based on a template to match your reader needs and proofread very carefully. Templates are a common area for typos because your eye is so familiar with the text it’s easy to miss an error.
To setup "canned responses" first click the gear icon. It's in the top right-hand corner of your Gmail. Then
Then you will be in the settings menu. Click the "labs label" and then enable "canned response." Do not forget to scroll to the bottom of the page and save the settings.
Every business writer should use this grammar and spell-checker tool.
The free version is much better than Microsoft Office's grammar and spelling checker. It will help you find 100 critical grammar and spelling errors. Every business person should at least install the free version. It will catch typos and mistakes that you might miss. It will also help you proofread and edit faster and more accurately.
The paid version flags 100+ advanced grammar and spelling errors. I use the paid version, and it has caught repetitive words and subtle errors that slipped past me and other instructors in the daily rush of business writing. It also identifies patterns where we tend to miss correction opportunities.
Caveat: Like all automated tools, it will highlight and suggest a correction. Ultimately you, as the writer, need to understand grammar well enough to accept the correction suggestion or not.
In the image below, notice how Grammarly flagged the double word help in paragraph one. However, Grammarly's hyphen correction in paragraph two is incorrect. The algorithm obviously thinks it's a typo of the prefix mis- (mis-information). This is a rare miss for Grammarly.
By default, the "Spelling & Grammar Check" feature is enabled in both Microsoft Word and Outlook, and of course, you should always run it to check for typos and errors. The Readability Measurement must be enabled in the preferences settings in Word and Outlook. It will additionally assess:
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Tone and Clarity
All of these tone and clarity tools are very useful but use caution. Skilled writers have the ability and confidence to play with language in ways the tool can't assess. The Gettysburg Address, for example, ranks poorly in all these tools.
That said, I often discover some bloat remnants in my writing when I use these tools, especially the Hemingway App.
We built the Jargon Grader to help eliminate jargon from your professional writing. It is a free tool that checks your text against a curated list of 700+ common jargon terms. You can watch our video below on how to use it.
Very similar to the Hemingway App, but it also lists the number of verbs, nouns, prepositions, adverbs/adjectives, and the often imprecise “is, this, that, there.” It will assess documents 100-1000 characters long.
Assess the warmth of your writing. Copy and paste a document into the free app, and it will assess the linguistics, rate your tone. With this information, you can edit word choice to improve a reader’s perception of your writing.
This definitive style guide to email or websites or anything published requires a subscription, but it will ensure consistency across your documents.
An Internal Style Guide
Every company coins unique product or service names and needs to ensure everyone in the company uses those terms consistently. Creating a simple internal style guide for your unique terms or style preferences will help everyone understand expectations.
One person needs to maintain this document and make sure the current version is available to everyone at the company.
Mary Cullen Originally published October 6, 2020, updated March 23, 2022
Mary founded Instructional Solutions in 1998, and is an internationally recognized business writing trainer and executive writing coach with two decades of experience helping thousands of individuals and businesses master the strategic skill of business writing. She excels at designing customized business writing training programs to maximize productivity, advance business objectives, and convey complex information. She holds a B.A. in English from the University of Rhode Island, an M.A. in English Literature from Boston College, and a C.A.G.S. in Composition and Rhetoric from the University of New Hampshire.