Are any of you aware of the online grammar and spelling tool Grammarly? It bills itself as “the world’s most accurate grammar checker“, but is it really?
I’ve been using Grammarly for about 3 months now, and I will concur that it is the world’s most accurate automated grammar checker. It definitely has its weaknesses and is in no way superior to a human editor. That said, for a full time (or even part time) freelance writer, Grammarly is a very useful tool. It will spot many of your mistakes and not only correct them, but also tell you why they are mistakes. If you have problems with grammar (and who doesn’t), I think you will find Grammarly helpful in correcting your mistakes, but even more importantly it will help you learn more about grammar and how to avoid the mistakes in the future. In my mind, this is the most useful aspect of Grammarly.
When you go to the Grammarly site, you will find the layout to be simple and uncluttered. There is an input box where you paste you text, then click the button that says “Check your text.” It then scans your text, telling you which grammar rules it is checking (the website claims over 150 types of grammar mistakes can be identified) and returns a result of the check. In addition to telling you which rules have been broken it also gives an overall score to your text based on a 100 point scale.
As I said, Grammarly is not as effective as a human editor, but it is certainly cheaper (plans start as low as $11.66 per month and there is a free 7 day trial). For a full time freelance writer who might be checking over 100,000 words per month it is a very cost effective solution. Your results will contain a check for plagiarism, spelling and commonly confused words, subject verb agreement, incorrect preposition usage, punctuation, and many other variables. Unfortunately, the free version does not tell you exactly where in the text each error occurs. To see that information you will need to sign up for a paid account.
I ran the first 4 paragraphs of this post through the free tool and was given a score of just 44 out of 100. It indicated 2 spelling errors, 2 issues with wordiness, 1 issue with verb form use, 10 writing style errors, and 5 word usage errors. Now, I know that sounds bad, but I’m pretty sure if I run it through the paid tool and see exactly where the potential errors are within the text the results will be much more palatable. So, that’s just what I did!
As I thought, my text wasn’t as poor as initially indicated by Grammarly. Most of the mistakes it caught are the same ones that constantly annoy me when using this tool. The spelling errors occurred because I had html markup within the text. The wordiness issue was due to modifier usage and in my opinion is more of a personal preference in many cases. All of the word usage “errors” were simply Grammarly suggestions for potentially better synonyms. These suggestions can be helpful, but they are not mistakes per se. The 10 writing style errors were broken up as 9 cases where I used the personal pronoun “you” (which Grammarly takes offense to as an informal writing style), and 1 case of using a contraction (which Grammerly also takes exception to). Again, these are all personal preference in many cases. The verb form use was related to this sentence “It bills itself as “the world’s most accurate grammar checker”, but is it really?”, which Grammarly does not feel should be a question.
Overall, the 20 errors that Grammarly detected turned out to be nothing. If I was writing an academic essay I would be concerned with the errors found, but as a blog post I think all of the “errors” are acceptable. I think in many ways Grammarly is too conservative when checking, but I would rather see too many errors that I could skip rather than Grammarly skipping over potential errors without alerting me. As an FYI, when I began using the tool several months ago there would have been many other errors…Grammarly has helped me immensely over the past few months.
The grammar checker will present you with each error individually as it is found. On the web tool the offending sentence or word is highlighted in red, and there is a box below that explains the error as well as giving correct and incorrect usage examples. I use the Word plugin, where the errors are highlighted in a peachy kind of color and the explanation box is shown on the right. Once you read the feedback you can either correct the error presented, or you can choose to ignore it and Grammarly will move on to the next error.
The explanations provided come in a concise version and a detailed version. When just starting out with Grammarly you may choose to see the detailed version, but for my taste it is information overload. That being said, I did use the detailed explanations myself when just beginning with Grammarly. Over time it becomes unnecessary as you will begin to internalize the grammar rules, corrections, and exceptions. Once you get to this point you can scan through a document relatively quickly, but at first it may seem slow and clunky.
Grammarly Editing Tools
Editing with Grammarly is very simple. Besides the grammar check, you also get a spelling check and suggestions for synonyms that can enhance the readability of your text. Editing is as simple as clicking “replace” and Grammarly will insert it’s recommended text in replacement for what is already there. Plus, there are plugins for both MS Word and the Chrome browser, making Grammarly even easier to use.
Grammarly also bundles in a plagiarism checker, which does an adequate job, but is no replacement for Copyscape if you are truly interested in plagiarism checking. I’ve noticed that at times it will mark original sentences as plagiarism, though I have yet to find that it misses phrases which truly are plagiarized. If you are going to use the bundled plagiarism checker be sure to also do some research on your own before making changes.
Ease of Use
I find Grammarly very easy to use. It does take some getting used to when starting out, but once you are familiar with the quirks inherent in the program, checking can be done very quickly. Checking can take some time, but I assume that is because Grammarly checks against so many different grammar rules.
When reviewing errors, you are presented with just one error at a time and they are in chronological order within the text. There is also an option that lets you look at errors by type, but you can still only view one at a time and have to use the “Next” button to move along.
Help and Support
There are plenty of opportunities to access help or assistance with Grammarly. Clicking the “Help & Support” link on the website will take you to the Grammarly Helpdesk, which also features frequently asked questions and contact information. Support is available via email and telephone. One downside is that support is only available Mon-Fri from 8am to 5pm EST. Grammarly also has Grammarly Answers (http://answers.grammarly.com) which is a Q&A site for grammar questions, Grammarly Handbook (http://www.grammarly.com/handbook/), which provides explanations of grammar rules, and Grammarly Words (http://words.grammarly.com/), an online thesaurus.
As you can tell from my continuing use, I appreciate the Grammarly tool. While it is no replacement for a human editor, it is quite good for initial edits and for documents that need to be good without necessarily being perfect. Because I write so much, there is no way I could afford a human editor for every document, but with Grammarly I don’t always need a human editor. As long as you understand the limitations of the software you will have a good experience and will appreciate Grammarly as much as I do. They are offering a free 7 day trial, so you can go give it a try yourself and see what you think.