Grammarly is not that grammar-worthy

Ok, so it’s not entirely true. I don’t regret buying a subscription, but I’m not perfectly happy either. It is better than Word’s  built-in grammar checker, but it won’t replace the proofreader. What can I say, it’s complicated.

It started during the last-minute jitters of finishing endless editing rounds of Shizzle, Inc. I was oscillating between the highs of being happy with my copyeditor to the lows of stressing over the proofread.  Thanks to one of you, who suggested trying Grammarly, I decided to have one last go at proofread myself.

Originally, I was going to get a year-long subscription, but when the time came to pay up, I got second thoughts. What if I tried it and it turned out to be worthless? Grammarly warns you everywhere that charges are not refundable. In the end, I’d decided to do a $29 trial month, and I’m glad I did. Short story is that I won’t subscribe for a whole year, although I will probably do another “trial month” to check my second manuscript. Here’s why:

The good:

  1. I downloaded it as an add-in to my Word, so I could do all editing without the need to upload the file to Internet. This means you can use Grammarly as you write and not get confused with multiple versions. Just watch out – autosave is disabled when Grammarly is enabled, so you have to remember and save manually. Good thing I’m paranoid and do it every five minutes anyway.
  2. Grammarly caught a few embarrassing misspellings (did I mention I’ve had three independent, highly qualified editors look at this thing?). It’s “cozy homes”, not cosy. Isa avoided going outside altogether, not “all together.”
  3. It agreed with me that a comma is not necessary  before “and” in sentences such as “she said and asked for my license”. Of course, you may hate it for that same reason.
  4. It caught British spellings in what was supposed to be an American text (I would kiss it for that alone). Again, after a bazillion rewrites, there were “spiralling”, “dialled”, and “wolly” with two “l”s, as well as monologue, criticising, realising, and moustaches.
  5. It’s consistent. Human editors missed the same bits that they previously highlighted elsewhere in the document. Grammarly was often wrong, but at least it was 100% consistent in doing so.
  6. It gives you explanations for all its decisions. That helps making the final call on whether or not to accept a change.

The bad:

  1. Grammarly is not a writer. It constantly complains that my sentences are too long and that I use a passive voice.
  2. It doesn’t have a sense of humor and therefore doesn’t get that redundant and inappropriate words are part of the comedy.
  3. It is annoyingly politically correct. I mean, it suggests “undocumented migrants” instead of illegal aliens. Really, Grammarly? Wait, Grammarly hates every occurrence of “really”, too.
  4. It highlighted about 1,200 potential errors in my manuscript. About a thousand of them were dead wrong, and it took me a whole day to get through all of them.
  5. It needs an Internet connection at all times, otherwise it falls out.
  6. It did not pick on that many verb tenses, even though I suspect I have a few errors here and there. This was the main drive behind buying the subscription, because I find verb tenses so difficult.
  7. It constantly thinks that I’m addressing people and demands more commas. For example, in “we need a grinder guard” it thinks someone is asking Guard for a grinder.
  8. Some of the comma suggestions just did not make any sense and would have changed the meaning of the sentences. In the end, I’ve ended up going with my gut on the comma suggestions – if it felt right, I put one in, and if it didn’t, well – don’t judge me too hard on it!

I was going to have “The ugly” section, but I’m feeling a lot more accepting and zen about it all now. If you are interested in a second opinion, here’s a much more thorough and almost scientific post from Grammarist.

The bottom line is that I think $29 was worth catching a few embarrassments and giving me a bit more assurance in comma placement.  So there you go – although we’re taking a break now, I have a feeling I will be getting back together with Grammarly for the next book. Even if it’s just a one-month stand.

27 Comments

Filed under Self-publishing and marketing, Shizzle, Inc.

27 responses to “Grammarly is not that grammar-worthy

  1. Another WordPress blogger typed strings of gobbledygook into Grammarly (djhfskjhskfhsjdf etc) and it came back with all sorts of nonsense about passive voices and what have you. Type in text by an author such as, say, Ernest Hemingway, and it will rubbish that too. Automated systems are not worth the money.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I use grammarly quite a bit and there is a way to tell it whether you’re writing a screen script, vs something more technical. I’ not home right now and sitting in bright sun so can’t see what I’m writing. If you want to know how to find that section I can help when I get home

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  3. I use Grammarly and always enjoy its weekly activity summary. According to the reports, I too am overly fond of passive voice and way to keen to insert a comma. I think it has helped me become more aware of my writing style, but I definitely wouldn’t trust it to be my only editor.

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  4. Hi Ana
    I had a brief relationship with Grammarly, and we parted on good terms. Grammarly seemed like a helicopter parent with the best of intentions and an abundance of skill, but possessed with that irritating tendency to smother. If Grammarly ever installs an option to ‘dial back’ their services as needed, I might consider a renewed relationship. Meanwhile, it’s Apple’s spellchecker. 😉 Have a great day!

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  5. Liz

    I don’t use Grammarly but I do have Hemmingway Editor (I have a Mac so not sure if they have a PC version), which I use now and then, but not for whole manuscripts, just chapters that somehow don’t ‘sound’ right to me when it comes to the flow of sentences.

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  6. There’s nothing better for spotting proof errors than uploading your pdf to review on Create Space before submitting your novel. It’s something to do with seeing your document in final book layout on the screen that makes you spot the tiniest error. I hope this is the case anyway, but to think that I’ve had two people beta read the thing, plus my husband and son have read it through, plus I’ve done a proofreading course, and yet still some mistakes had crept in. That Grammarly thing sounds like an absolute nonsense and a bit of a nightmare. Out of interest, why have you opted for US English when you live in Australia? That spelling ‘cozy’ looks so silly through my UK eyes. I know that opting to publish through Amazon means our main readership comes from the US, but I’m sticking with UK spellings and UK expressions, especially as my novel is set in the 1960’s. It somehow wouldn’t work having London mods using US expressions and writing their lingo with US spellings.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi, Sarah – my book is set in the US, hence why I’d taken major pains to make my characters sound American. I’m assuming you do your own CreateSpace formatting? I’d opted for a professional format, but now the issue will be that if I find any errors, I’d have to pay them extra to fix it.

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      • Hi Ana — you are very brave setting your book in the US and making your characters sound American, but I think you’ve made a good job of it in Shizzle (yes, I’m reading it at the moment and must add it to my Goodreads current bookshelf so it shows up in my blog’s sidebar). Indeed, I have been doing my own CS formatting. Yesterday, I sent off for my proof copy of the book. It was like climbing a very high mountain doing the book’s interior correctly, but I’ve made a note of everything I’ve done, so it’s easier next time around. I love challenges, especially ones involving my PC. When I uploaded the interior in the first place there was on error, in that I hadn’t embedded all of the fonts in the pdf. Second time round, I got it right. Everyone is very helpful in the CS forum if you’re stuck and I believe that a few of them will format for a fee, the advantage being that they’re CS authors themselves, therefore they know exactly what’s required for that platform. Also, the staff are extremely helpful, if nobody in the forum has an answer to something. I know what you mean about having to pay someone extra to fix things. I was in a real stress because I insisted the artist who did my cover place the CS-generated ISBN and barcode on the back, but with industry standard hyphenation, and then discovered afterwards about additional price barcodes. The CS staff put my mind at rest, telling me that the latter wasn’t compulsory. Phew!!! It was giving me palpitations.

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  7. I suppose the good thing about these programs, they take you out of your mind and the fantasizes you have about your manuscript and make you look again. Having said that, many of the things highlighted will be corrected in future novels. You won’t write sentences 75 words long. You won’t use commas each time you pause, when reading aloud, because readers, reading silently, don’t need them: Hey, does a sentence of six words need a comma?

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  8. Enjoyed this.I have had Grammarly for six months. I too have battles. I am always fighting dialog corrections. Grammarly doesn’t do dialog well.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I am a compulsive over-user of commas. It’s like in a past life; I just didn’t get my fill of commas or something. Grammarly is pretty decent for such things. I use it principally to just “tighten-up” my manuscripts. I still use real, live humans for my editors/proofreaders.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for this. I’ve been thinking about getting a subscription or some time. I still might pick one up just to see for myself, though.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Pingback: Grammarly is not that grammar-worthy | Toni Kennedy : A Writing Life

  12. I’d been wondering how well the Grammarly software works. Their blog and handbook are full of amateur errors. It’s clear they aren’t employing people with any background in linguistics or language analysis. I’ve actually written about some of the specific problems I’ve found (https://linguischtick.wordpress.com/tag/grammarly/). It’s interesting you mention that their software can’t identify problems with verb tense. That’s just the kind of problem I suspected would come up.

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    • Very interesting post, thank you for sharing! I’m glad there are people like you trying to preserve integrity of the language, otherwise we may degrade into “Idiocracy”-type language sooner than 500 years…

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