Need to entertain? To persuade? To motivate? But stuck for what to say? Free Internet sites can help us develop and express our ideas more effectively.

Here are a few suggestions from a professional writer’s personal experience:

1. Defining our terms. Countless dictionaries are now on line (see, for example, Oxford and Merriam–Webster), and like other online resources, they are contemporaneously updated. A good offbeat one to know about is the Urban Dictionary for “just now” (and usually not for long) phrases that sweep a broad swathe of new media for a minute or so. Note: Much of it is quite offensive, but at least we can find out what terms mean, even if we don’t use them ourselves. There are also many specialty dictionaries on line now, and the best way to find them is to type the subject area into a search engine + dictionary, for example Pidgin–English, automotive terms, or legal terms.

2. Keeping an online thesaurus or two on the desktop can help us avoid repetitive wording. Today’s sites are often quite sophisticated and can offer up-to-date choices based on contemporary shades of meaning. Put another way, a twenty-year-old book may not be as useful as it once was.

3. Occasional use of rhyme doesn’t hurt, especially in a title. Here’s a rhyming dictionary that quickly identifies all the likely choices. That’s a real boon, especially if we are tired—which we may well be if we wait till the end to compose the title. That, by the way, is a good approach to time management. Finalizing what we intend to say first means we won’t need to keep revising the title.

4. We can let great, or at least prominent or, okay, even notorious people (Jesse James?) supply some of the words. There are many sites offering quotable quotes by subject and author out there. Sometimes, a proverb on the subject can help. Or a phrase finder. Or appropriate jokes

5. If we want our text checked for errors, there’s Grammarly, which will allow a couple of free tries before asking for a sign-up.

Above all, let’s relax. Chances are, someone else has been trying to say something similar somewhere. The methods that worked for them will probably work for us, even if writing doesn’t “come naturally” to us. Maybe it didn’t come naturally to those people either, but they went ahead and did it, and blazed a trail for us.

See also: Tweet! Or delete!(?) Read this before you post to Twitter

Denyse O’Leary is an author, journalist, and blogger who has mainly written popular science and social science. Fellow Canadian Marshall McLuhan’s description of electronic media as a global village...