WordPress plugins and themes for writers

Writing Help

Because most browsers support spell-checking, you don't need a dedicated WordPress plugin for that. However, a plugin to help you avoid common grammatical pitfalls can be rather handy, indeed. Enter the After the Deadline plugin. After the Deadline, which was previously available as a standalone module, is now part of the Jetpack suite [7], so you have to install it to enable the spell-checking and grammar support on your WordPress installation.

Besides installing and enabling JetPack, you also need to connect it to the WordPress.com services. This step automatically enables the Spelling and Grammar module, and you can configure its settings in the Users | Your Profile section under Proofreading. Here, you can enable the option to proofread the article automatically before you publish or update it, and you can toggle options that check for specific patterns of poor writing style, including common problems like clichés, double negatives, passive voice, redundant phrases, and so on. You can also specify phrases and words that should be ignored during proofreading.

To proofread the currently edited article, press the Proofread Writing button in the editor's toolbar. To make it easier for you to identify problematic words and phrases, the proofreading feature highlights them using three colors: red for misused words and spelling errors, green for grammar mistakes, and blue for style suggestions. Clicking on a highlighted word or phrase displays a brief explanation of the problem and a list of possible suggestions.

Obviously, the Spelling and Grammar feature (Figure 8) can only handle a limited set of grammar-related issues, but it can be a useful tool for catching some common mistakes and errors.

Figure 8: The Spelling and Grammar module lets you fix the most common grammar issues.

Collaborative Editing with Post Forking

The Post Forking plugin [8] adds collaborative editing functionality to WordPress, and it does this in a slightly different way than you might expect. It uses an approach similar to the Git distributed revision control system that is popular with open source software developers. The plugin allows WordPress users without editing rights to fork an article – that is, to clone and edit it without affecting the original.

Once the fork has been saved, the administrator can compare it with the original and merge changes. Additionally, the author of the article can create branches, or parallel versions of the article, that can be edited independently. Despite (or thanks to) its software developer-friendly logic, the plugin's functionality is relatively easy to master. Once installed and enabled, the plugin adds the Fork link next to each post created by other users in the Posts | All Posts section. Click on it to clone the desired item and edit it as a regular post. When done, press Save Fork to save the changes and add the revised article to the Forks section.

In this section, the admin (and the article's author) can then view forked articles, compare them with their originals, and merge changes. Thanks to the dedicated graphical tool, comparing the original with its fork and merging changes is rather straightforward (Figure 9). The tool displays the original and the fork side-by-side in a two-pane window, where all additions and deletes are highlighted with green and red colors, respectively. You can merge each change to the right (thus undoing the modification) or to the left (which merges the modification). For articles authored by you, Post Forking displays the Create branch link instead of Fork. Using it, you can create new versions of the article that are treated as forks.

Figure 9: The Post Forking plugin sports a visual tool for merging changes.

Final Word

Using the right mix of plugins and themes, you can transform WordPress into a versatile writing environment as an alternative to your regular tools of the trade. Even if WordPress won't replace a fully-fledged desktop word processor, it can prove to be an indispensable tool for all kinds of writing activities – from taking notes and organizing research to collaborating with other writers.

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