5 Nifty Google Writing Tools

Publish date:

Hi, writers,

Maria is likely sipping exotic neon cocktails and hanging out with top writers as the Maui Writers Conference wraps up in Hawaii, so this week I’m taking over The Writer’s Perspective and the WD fort in Cincinnati, wearing an old lei from a luau-themed office party.

I originally planned to blog about nationwide newspaper cuts (our local Cincinnati Enquirer mentioned today that 15 newsroom staffers have accepted buyouts), but I’m working on some great material for the January/February issue, so let’s go with a less grim topic—let’s go with some of my overly abused Google writing tools.

Here are five free, simple, nifty writing tricks I picked up as a reporter that can be surprisingly handy when editing or writing.

Google Phonebook: Looking to hunt down the phone number of that mysterious source before deadline? Go to Google.com and type “phonebook: John Smith Nevada.” Now you have all the John Smiths in Nevada, and you didn’t need to root through any hulking yellow tomes.

iGoogle: My over-checked guilty pleasure. At iGoogle.com, you can set up a custom web page, and you can even tailor it to your own writing and reading ends with a database of free widgets. For instance, mine has both of my e-mail addresses plugged into it, seven news feeds, a word of the day, an artist of the day, a dictionary form, a thesaurus form, a daily literary quote and a strange “Writer’s Idea Bank” tool. Overkill? Probably. Perfect for compulsive e-mail-checking writers? Definitely. (Requires free Google account.)

Google Docs: This is a relatively new one in my lineup, but one that I’m increasingly using. At docs.google.com you can find the tech behemoth’s free online word processor, which allows you to write, edit, save and even format your material as you would in a normal program. Upside: You can access your writing anywhere without a flash drive. Downside: No internet connection? Ut-oh. (Requires free Google account.)

Google Calculator: I didn’t get into writing because I was good at math, so it’s a good thing search engines are. Simply type “456*993” into the browser and you’re a whiz. If you still remember what square roots are, you can do those, too.

Define: The crown jewel, crucial for helping your writing (or settling arguments) when you don’t have a dictionary or Internet connection handy. Text message Google with your cell phone (466453) and write “Define: Athabascan.” Soon enough, your mobile phone is telling you all about Alaska and Western Canada. Texting Google also works for movie times, weather and directions.

For more, visit google.com/help/features.html. What are your favorite writing gadgets and widgets?

Read on and write on,



Zachary Petit
WD Managing Editor

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Amanda Jayatissa: On Spiraling Out in Suspense

Author Amanda Jayatissa discusses the fun of writing "deliciously mean" characters in her psychological thriller, My Sweet Girl.

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

3 Tips for Writing a Memoir Everyone Wants to Read

A memoir is an open window into another's life—and although the truth is of paramount importance, so too is grabbing hold of its reader. Writer Tasha Keeble offers 3 tips for writing a memoir everyone will want to read.

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Zoe Whittall: On Personal Change in Literary Fiction

Bestselling and Giller Prize-shortlisted author Zoe Whittal discusses the complexity of big life decisions in her new novel, The Spectacular.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 582

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write a transition poem.

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

4 Myths About Writing Animal Characters

Author Codi Schneider debunks four myths about writing animal characters, including that audiences won't connect with animal characters and that they're only for children's books.



Every writer needs a little inspiration once in a while. For today's prompt, your character is a modern day voyager.

Stephanie Marie Thornton: One How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

Stephanie Marie Thornton: On How an Entire Rewrite Added Suspense

USA Today bestselling author discusses how rewriting a portion of her new historical fiction novel, A Most Clever Girl, added suspense.

Creativity Is Making Small Choices

Creativity Is Making Small Choices

When struggling to work through a creative dilemma, it's best to think of your work in small pieces that create a larger whole. Author Perttu Pölönen explains how creativity is a collection of small choices from an abundance of options.

Zibby Books Market Spotlight

Zibby Books: Market Spotlight

For this market spotlight, we look at Zibby Books, a brand new book publisher (just announced earlier today) that wants to introduce a new model with book champions and ambassadors to the publishing and promotion process.