Ask yourself, why are you writing? Maybe you love the torment of staring at a blank page while waiting for your next masterpiece. More likely, it’s for a serious internship or teacher. You know this one.
Whatever the reason, you probably wish there was a program to transfer your brilliant ideas from your brain to the page. Alas, although such software does not exist, you can find plenty of free writing software to help you on your literary journey. To make it easier for you, I’ve included five of my favorite options below, plus one that’s paid, along with tips for getting the most out of each.
Advantages: Covers most aspects of editing for authors; high quality courses.
The inconvenients: Unable to use offline book editor. No desktop or mobile app.
One thing every writer wants is just to be able to write. You are not an author? You can skip to the next section. But if you are, you need Reedsy, the Swiss army knife of free writing software. At its core, Reedsy offers five services: Book Publisher, Marketplace, Learning, Prompts, and Discovery. They also have a Blogwhich adds additional information to their amazing resources.
So what does each service do?
The sleek Reedsy Book Editor handles the formatting legwork of your manuscript, especially if you plan to self-publish. Plus, importing and exporting to the editor takes just a few clicks. To keep you on track, the book editor lets you set up goals by word count and due date, taking into account the days you write. (The only catch is that you have to write it yourself. Shit.)
Maybe you want to write but need help. Reedsy Learning offers free but invaluable 10-day courses on everything from character development to cover design. Reedsy sends as many as you want, when you want, straight to your inbox every morning. All you have to do is register.
Now for the not so free part:
Write short stories? Reedsy prompts hosts weekly writing contests centered around a theme or prompt. Although participation is free, you must pay an official consideration for the first financial prize.
When you have finally finished your manuscript, Reedsy Market provides the free service of connecting you with reputable professionals for every step of your publishing journey. Of course, once you’ve selected and interviewed someone, you have to pay them.
Discovery of the reeds is a cheap way for new authors to get readers and reviews. For $50 you can submit your book for review. If your reviewer likes it, you get a quality review. (Book reviews? Apply now for a chance to earn money while reading.)
Advantages: Minimalist. Maintain crisp, clean writing.
The inconvenients: Limited feedback. Confining for long-term writers. No save function.
Hemingway Editor encourages writers to adopt Hemingway’s easy-to-read style. This is not surprising considering how he revolutionized 20th century American literature. (He also won a Nobel Prize.)
The editor keeps the sentences functional using several of Hemingway’s strategies. Through objectives, he commends readers for limiting adverbs and the passive voice. It suggests alternatives to awkward sentences. Beyond that, it highlights hard-to-read sentences in either yellow or red, depending on the length. As a bonus, it evaluates the readability, the number of words and the reading time of a text.
There are two ways to use Hemingway Editor: write in its minimalist interface or upload your own text. For this article, I did the first. Writing in the editor looks like a high-tech typewriter with its bookish font. You can close the sidebar in “write” mode and call it up when done. Hemingway Editor is also equipped with basic one-click formatting.
At first oppressive, the editor eliminates the authors’ favorite hollow fluff and labyrinthine sentences. There may be a learning curve for those used to flowery writing, but it’s worth it for clear, concise prose. Plus, the change of scenery will free your mind to go wild with ideas.
Advantages: Minimalist, intuitive, incredibly efficient.
The inconvenients: As dangerous as the name suggests.
Full disclosure: I wrote this section in the most dangerous writing app.
It’s simple to use: set a word count or time limit and choose whether or not you want a prompt. Press start.
And then don’t stop for anything in the world.
If you spend too much time thinking without typing or deleting too long to edit, your writing will become a pulsating red blur. If you don’t resume typing, it’s all gone. Poof. Just like that. No way to recover anything.
That’s the whole app. Although it was taken over by Squiblr.io, this free writing software remains easy to use if you’re up for the anxiety-inducing challenge. It really is the most dangerous writing app on the web while being more user-friendly than write or die. While there are no bells and whistles like formatting, that’s by design. It’s meant to be minimalistic, just a sans serif font on a white background, your cursor ready to respond to every keystroke.
I confess to having used it for several assignments, essays and even articles to be published. It keeps my mind sharp and clear as I continue to write. Use it to break through writer’s block and overthinking in the most nerve-wracking way possible. Then you can go back and edit it however you want.
Advantages: Versatile and quality proposals.
The inconvenients: Writers need the paid version to view premium suggestions.
Alternative: LanguageTool (free for English and other languages)
To be fair, you probably have Grammarly. And its browser extension. Perhaps also its Microsoft Word integration. If you don’t? You understand. At present.
Anytime you write professionally, you need to sound great. Whether you’re looking for good grades or good impressions, Grammarly can and will get you there. It’s the free writing software for all your editing needs – impeccable grammar, sparkling clarity, captivating engagement, razor-sharp delivery. Extremely adaptable, Grammarly adjusts its suggestions according to a chosen audience and formality. You can use it on everything from short emails proofread by the extension (with a tone checker!) to long-term jobs uploaded to the website.
The main downside to Grammarly is that the site pays for the very suggestions that elevate your writing from adequate to spectacular. However, the web editor helpfully lists error categories and their frequency on the side. Sifting through the offending text in golden underlining allows you to identify and correct your errors. As tedious as it can be, the result of this rigorous process visibly reads better and teaches you good writing practices.
5. Google Docs (Yes really)
Advantages: Intuitive, great for collaboration, stores version history, can work offline or on mobile.
The inconvenients: Missing some features of Microsoft Word; does not retain all Word formatting.
Every Google Docs user has a love-hate relationship with the ubiquitous free writing software. But we use it anyway because nothing quite compares to collaboration.
We all work well in its mostly intuitive and familiar interface while ignoring elements we barely use or don’t understand. Add-ons, automatic cloud synchronization, and revision history give it a slight edge for people looking for a lighter word processor. Although far from perfect, its ever-increasing compatibility with Microsoft Word only makes it more appealing today compared to high school.
Prime: Microsoft Word
Advantages: Good formatting, markup for touchscreens, has desktop and mobile apps, the professional gold standard.
The inconvenients: Features aren’t always intuitive; need to pay for voice dictation.
Depending on your university, this writing software may be free for you, so it’s best to cover all of its cool features and professional formatting.
If you don’t want to look like a Microsoft Word newbie, try basic formatting. Extra spacing before or after paragraphs pops off the page, especially when spaces in MLA headings seem unusually wide. For bibliographies, negative indents can be found by expanding the “Paragraph” section. You can change everything under the sun – or on the screen – or let a model do it for you.
Chances are, if you haven’t clicked every button, you’ve probably missed some useful features. To be distracted ? Use focus mode. Learn another language? Add proofreading to it and use the built-in translation tools to check yourself. Another feature that people don’t take advantage of is collaboration. As with Google Docs, you can share a document, collaborate in real time, track changes, and leave comments.
In my experience, the best thing you can do with Microsoft Word is to use headings. You can move between sections, select and copy the content of a heading, or drag it to rearrange it in the navigation pane. Interactive headings are more practical on documents as long as the scroll bar becomes unnecessary – for example, in your lecture notes or your 200-page work in progress.
With Microsoft 365, there are two additional Word features worth mentioning. While it’s probably not worth nearly a hundred dollars a year, voice dictation adds the most value. Sit in front of your conference room and let Word do the rest. On all platforms, you can also access the editor, which looks like an unfortunate grammar.
Among free writing software, there is something for all writers, even if your problem is that you can’t write. Speaking from personal experience, I wouldn’t be the writer I am today if it weren’t for these six pieces of software. So whatever you’re looking for, whatever you need, I hope you find it here and use it to tell your story.