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Beyond Spellcheck: 7 Web Tools That Check for Empathy, Inclusivity and More

Nov 5, 2015 4 min readOpen
Photo of Courtney Seiter
Courtney Seiter

Former Director of People @ Buffer

Of all the things that have been known to keep me awake at night, one of the repeat offenders is thinking of times when I’ve said the totally wrong thing to a person. That embarrassment of putting my foot in my mouth or just rubbing someone the wrong way tends to linger long past the initial moment.

Luckily, technology is working on making these sleepless nights a thing of the past!

I’m always on the lookout for writing tools that can help me communicate more clearly and empathetically online, and quite a few have hit my radar recently. Here’s a look at 7. Happy writing!

7 web writing tools

1. Crystal: See personality profiles before you hit ‘send’



Price: Free trial, then $19/month to $50/month

Use for: More empathetic communication

How it works: Crystal scours the web to create unique personality profiles for anyone with an online presence. When you go to email someone (or even tweet at them, if you use the extension!), you can check out Crystal’s assessment to make sure your communication is ideal for your subject. Plus it’s fun to see what Crystal thinks about you based on your online presence. :)

I enjoyed checking our Crystal profiles so much that I thought I’d share a slideshow of a few Buffer team members:

2. Alex: Check your language for potential inclusivity issues



Price: Free

Use for: More inclusive communication

How it works: Alex helps you discover any opportunities in your writing to remove gender favoritism, racially insensitive language other unequal phrasing. Enter a chunk of text  in the demo field to try it out, or install it using npm. There’s also an integration with Slack!

3. Foxtype: How polite is your message?



Price: Free

Use for: More polite communication

How it works: Foxtype wants to make sure your message is as kind as possible. To test it out, paste your text in the box, and hit “Check Tone”. Foxtype will scan your message, tell you how polite your note reads, and offer a list of possible changes. You can also grab a Gmail extension if you give Foxtype your email!

4. Hemingway: Make your writing stronger

Hemingway Editor


Price: Free on the web or $10 for desktop app

Use for: Clearer communication

How it works: The Hemingway Editor keeps your writing simple, clear and concise by highlighting too-lengthy sentences in yellow and “more egregious” ones in red. It also notes adverbs, passive voice, and overly complicated words so you can have the opportunity to rewrite. Paste in something you’re working on to give it a try.

5. Writefull: Real-time language help and feedback


Price: $5/month or $25/year

Use for: Language help as you write

How it works: Writefull plugs into nearly any tool you might use for writing and uses uses large language databases (Google Books and Google Web) to search for the frequency of chunks of text. Highlight any text you’re not sure of and Writefull can help by doing things like:

  • Checking how often your selected text is found in the language database
  • Offering examples of selected text in Wikipedia or on the web
  • Sharing which words are used most often in a gap in your text
  • Seeing which synonyms of a given word are used most often in your text

6. Grammarly Extension: Smart grammar and spelling checker

grammarly spell checker


Price: Free

Use for: Grammar and spelling checks

How it works: Go beyond the standard spellcheck with Grammarly, which integrates contextual spelling and grammar checks, a thesaurus, and dictionary directly into everywhere you write online. (It flags more than 250 types of errors!).

7. ProWritingAid: Comprehensive writing editor and plagiarism checker

ProWriting Aid


Price: Free to $40/year

Use for: Overall editing of writing

How it works: In need of a second pair of eyes on your work when no one’s around? ProWritingAid is the second best thing, checking for all sorts of stuff like sentence length, overused words, clichés, “corporate wording” and much more. Paid plans also include a plagiarism checker that searches over a billion web-pages, published works, and academic papers.

Share your top tools!

These are just a few of the tools I’ve been checking out lately. I’d love to hear what your go-to tools and apps might be to make sure your communication is smart, clear and empathetic. Share your favorite picks in the comments!

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