Sometimes I look back to my early days as a communicator—back when people still referred to the internet as “The Information Superhighway,” and primarily used it to host Star Trek fanpages– and wonder how on earth I ever managed to fool the world into thinking I was a halfway competent practitioner.
But today, we live in an amazing world. One in which we all have access to an auxiliary brain containing the entire breadth of man’s knowledge. We use it almost exclusively to share pictures of cats.
But with nothing more than a device and the right search string, just about anyone can sound coherent, twist a phrase cunningly, or tie things together graphically. In between sharing pictures of cats.
Here are six of the tools – plus one BONUS tool, presented entirely free of charge! – I depend on to turn the typewriting monkeys in my brain into communications gold:
The ‘pedia that World Book could only dream of becoming just barely makes this list. You probably think, “Well DUH, everyone uses it.” But I include it because I remember it wasn’t always this way.
Wikipedia still has a dark reputation in academic circles. In the early days, it was for being horribly inaccurate. Now, it’s for being TOO easy to mine for (mostly) accurate information. But for those of us who just need a quick starting place to begin research, it’s a magical place of easy knowledge.
Bonus points to Wikipedia Commons for hosting high-resolution pictures which are free-use for everyone.
2. Writer’s Dictionary
Okay, it’s on the tip of my brain— the word for a thing where you can’t think of the word, but if you describe it with enough words you can figure out what the thing is?
No, it’s not my girl Erika—it’s the Writer’s Dictionary. I can’t tell you how many times this has helped me out of one of those green cucumber things… yes—a pickle!
Seriously, go try to stump it. It’s fun to torment the writer’s dictionary with random words.
3. Brainy Quote
Quotation sites are everywhere, but this one is still my favorite. It’s designed cleanly, with authors, subjects and picture quotes broken out.
It’s one of those places I go to for one quote, and an hour and 18 entries later, I’m bawling over Maya Angelou or having a pretend conversation with Steve Martin, in which I dazzle him with how well I “get” him… You know, forget that last one.
4. Hemingway App
Named for our modern-day saint of brevity and clarity, the Hemingway App is everything we love about MS Word’s grammar check, and nothing we don’t. With a simple cut and paste, it checks for long wordy, verbose, sentences; wisely suggests removing adverb, and suggests passive sentences be removed. (*WINK WINK*)
I’m throwing in Alltop, not because I directly use it to create communication, but because if I’m going to give people context about how our business fits into the rest of the world, I better know what’s going on in it. Some of my best work comes simply from connecting those dots for people.
Have you ever made an infographic? Think they’re too complicated? They don’t have to be, at least, if you have Piktochart.
I am here to tell you: with a little practice, anyone can make gorgeous infographics. For beginners, there are ready-made templates you can simply update. For those more experienced, you can create your own. Best of all it’s FREE with plenty of great tools. And if you fall in love like I did, paid plans start at $15 monthly.
7. Graphics Tools
It doesn’t matter if you’re old school like me and are stuck on the classics like Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator (which are now exclusively cloud-based). Nor does it matter if you’re a newbie using something like Canva, everyone in communications these days needs to have SOME way to do basic graphics.
Those are the online apps that keep me looking professional and sane during the era of the internet cat. What are yours? Seriously, tell me. Don’t be like that… I told you first! I thought you were cool.
There you go, that wasn’t so hard!
COMING SOON: Best apps for communicators gone mobile.