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Advice, Grammar

The Grammarly Tool Dissected – A Personal Review

Whether you’re a veteran or a virgin to the world of writing, Grammarly is one of those tools that can help improve your prose. As a proofreader, Grammarly is one of my sanity-checking tools. Even at the standard membership level, the functionality is useful.

Instant Grammar Checker - Correct all grammar errors and enhance your writing.

I have to admit that when I first started using Grammarly, I got so obsessed with getting the green G sign at the bottom of everything that it took me twice as long to post even a Facebook update. But, I do think that this is helping me deliver a better service to my clients. Grammarly forces me to review everything, and that’s no bad thing.

So, what do you get with the basic service?

  • If you use Chrome and add the extension, then you get an online spell and grammar check as you are typing.
  • Contextual spell checking.
  • Access to the Grammarly Handbook. An excellent resource for the rules of grammar if you’re starting out.
  • Weekly reports. These show how many words you’ve written, your error rate, and the number of unique words you’ve used. The report also tells you how you compare to the other users of Grammarly. I’m not too sure how useful these are for a proofreader, as they will pick up all the errors from the document you are proofing.
  • The ability to switch between languages. Grammarly can check for British, American, Australian, or Canadian versions of spelling, which can be useful if you write for different markets.

What does the Premium service offer?

To be honest, when I saw what the premium service offered, I wasn’t sure that it was worth the subscription fee. I consider myself a good proofreader, and I tend to catch the ‘real’ errors that Grammarly highlights. However, I did like the look of the additional error checking that is offered, so I thought I’d give the premium service a whirl. I have now been using it for about two years.

  • MS Word Add-in
  • In-depth explanations of the grammar error. This function is exceedingly useful if you’re not an expert in grammar. It allows you to understand your mistakes and so educates you not to make the same mistake again.
  • Access to the extended grammar-check function. Grammarly will provide correction for a further 250 grammar rules – some of them are relatively obscure in their use.
  • By highlighting any word, Grammarly will offer a range of synonyms to use. These are often different to the ones provided in MS Word.
  • A plagiarism function of Grammarly goes off and checks the web for sections of text that already exist. This option is exceedingly useful to me as I can add it to the other checks I do and offer it as an option for my services.

A few words on the MS Word add-in. It certainly isn’t as slick as the online version; I find it sometimes gets stuck on a misspelled word despite my having corrected it, but you can always just hit the ignore icon. However, being able to utilise Grammarly’s functionality from within Word has certainly made my life easier.

There are a couple of things to note about the add-in; both the Ctrl-Z and auto-save functions are disabled. Losing Ctrl-Z, I can live with, but I’ve lost count of the times that the auto-save feature has saved me from losing a piece of writing I’m working on, so now I’m starting to obsess about saving my work.

The premium subscription also offers in-depth advice and corrections for any writing I’m doing (such as this blog), and this is what I wanted to take for a comprehensive test drive. If you’re new to proofreading, it’s like having a personal tutor sat by your side giving you a nudge every time you make a mistake, who then explains why it’s wrong.

A Word of Warning

As with all automated tools, Grammarly is far from perfect. While it will pick up most typos consistently, it will also highlight error-free writing wrongly. It also isn’t consistent in picking up errors; I have seen two identical errors with only one being picked up by Grammarly. On a final note, make sure you think about each ‘mistake’ that Grammarly picks up, as it isn’t always right; In fact, I’d say it is close to 50-50 a lot of the time.

Is Grammarly for me?

I guess it depends on what type of writer you are, and what type of writer you want to be. There’s absolutely no reason not to sign up for the free version as it will improve your writing. And, if you’re happy with the way you write (and you’re not too bothered about the odd error),  just stick with that. However, if you’re writing professionally, and you care about what people think about your writing, then paying for the premium version is a good investment, at least until you learn the rules of grammar. If you do nothing else, then have a read of the Grammarly blog; there are some great writing tips to be read.

If you are a proofreader (especially if you’re new to the job), then Grammarly can be a useful tool as a sanity check. I use it to quality check my work, and it sometimes picks up one or two things I’ve missed in a manuscript.

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If you have used Grammarly or are still using it, then let me know what you think of it by commenting below.

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