3 Writing Tools to Improve Your Writing from ACN Members
By Bill Spiegel, ACN President, with content provided through attendees at the ACN regional workshop.
When I was hired as a field editor at Kansas Farmer in 1995, editor, Hank Ernst, used to regale me with stories of the glory days. Occasionally, he recalled, several members of the magazine’s staff might go out on interviews. One person would do the photography, another would do the interview. It was a collaborative effort and led to stellar journalism.
Most of us don’t have that luxury now.
But what we do have is a smartphone, and an assortment of apps and technology at our fingertips to make our lives easier.
At the ACN Regional Workshop in Springfield, Missouri in October, attendees shared some of their favorites. Search your App Store for these and let your phone be your assistant editor!
Recording and transcription at the same time? For free? Yes please. That’s what Otter does, and it’s a free App, to boot.
Kevin Schultz, field editor with the Farm Progress publications, says he uses it not just to record interviews, but take notes after an interview.
“When I drive away, I grab my phone and call up otter and kind of write the closing first. You know, these are the points I want to get across because you're I have the recorded interview. Instead of transcribing an hour of that interview, here’s my quick hit,” Schultz says. “Just kind of helps mold where I want to start at least, and then I can hit the ground running. And then with Otter, it’s transcribed for you.”
For a fee, Otter is upgradable to Pro and Business versions that add more minutes of transcription, plus other features.
This app, which is available on smartphones and on your computer’s web browser, serves as a basic copy editor, Rooster’s Vatterott says.
“It catches little grammar mistakes but also like clunky sentences where I think it sounds good or maybe I use too much slang. “It picks it up and thinks, ‘oh, this maybe could be a little bit more professional or more short and concise,’” Vaterott says.
Samantha Kilgore, executive director at ACN, agrees.
“You can use Grammarly to monitor for your writing to be more formal or more casual,” she says. “You take it with a grain of salt; it’s not a professional journalist. It's just a system that reads the content but it does help. It helps me kind of get a good gauge for what that content feels like.”
3. Google Docs
In many cases, ag journalists are working remotely or in individual offices. Jenny Vatterott, Rooster, uses Google Docs so remote colleagues can edit her work. “I’ll write my story in a Google Doc and my colleagues use the Track Edits function,” she says. “We do have a third-party proofreader, but my coworkers help me with the bulk of it.”
Meanwhile, Alex Gray, machinery editor at Successful Farming, opens a Doc on Google Drive to jot down key points of interviews he’s conducted. “I just put all my lists in there, and pull bullet points out from it. I put all the puzzle pieces together, by going through what I’ve already written in notes.”