In The Writing Meme, I had mentioned about using the right tools. Here are a few tools I’ve recently found.
Readability is a bookmarklet you can add to your browser toolbar to make web pages easy to read. For example, here is Thomas Friedman, with all the clutter of the NYTimes site:
Here is the same page with Readability:
TidyRead is very similar to Readability, but offers an ‘Option Bar’ at the top, where you can change display settings at will – this makes it very convenient and easy to use:
Practice Speed Reading
If you’re serious about improving your reading speed, check out Eyercize. Their Reading Pacer is essentially a tachistoscope, and will help improve your offline (book) reading speed as well.
Free Online PDF to Word Converter
PDFToWord is a really cool site, when you want to easily convert PDF documents to word for editing. It retains all the formatting, tables, graphics, links, etc. making it quite indispensable if you often use both PDF and Word file formats. Oh, and you should have the Save as PDF extension to Office 2007.
Text Analysis Tools
There are a few shareware programs for analyzing text in terms of word counts, word frequency, etc. It is not-so-easy to find truly free programs, so here are a couple of options:
Text Statistics Generator is a bare-bones tool, giving you quick analysis of number of word occurrences. Here is the CPI(M) manifesto for the 2009 elections analyzed:
The excellent UsingEnglish.com site has an Advanced Text Analyzer, which I think is more useful. The caveat: to use the advanced features, you have to be a registered member of their site (registration is free).
Here’s the CPI(M) Manifesto word cloud:
Why use text analyzers? Website designers using SEO techniques need to identify keywords that they can use to maximize site traffic and ad revenue. The SEO philosophy is use targeted keywords as frequently as you can to improve your search engine rankings.
As a writer, I find these tools useful the other way around. Often, I find myself overusing a word in an article. Word frequency analysis can help identify which words and phrases you’re overusing in your writing. Maybe that’s the time you need a thesaurus!
If you find any of these tools useful, or have other ones to share, please feel free to comment.