I had the opportunity to try out the Grammarly service. If you’re not sure what Grammarly is, I will offer a brief explanation. Grammarly is a spelling and grammar checker on steroids. Grammarly will not only catch your mistakes but also tell you why they’re wrong. This is especially helpful if you have no idea why your spelling/grammar checker is telling you that certain things are wrong.
I recently had the chance also to check out a Grammarly infographic, which I wrote about in my post Put Your Best Words Forward. Grammarly conducted a study and found that people who make less grammar and spelling mistakes are paid more money. I also posited that people are going to take you more seriously.
How to Get Grammarly
Grammarly is a paid service. It’s on a subscription based term. You buy the service for a month, three months, half a year, or a year. The longer you buy it for, the cheaper it is each month. Using the subscription based service you can upload documents to be checked at www.grammarly.com, once you login to your account, or you can use the downloadable add-ins for Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word. There is also an add-in for Google Chrome, which will check your browser writing.
You can sign up for Grammarly by going to www.grammarly.com.
What I tried
I did not use the Google Chrome add-in because my main web browser is Firefox. I also chose not to use the uploader. I used the Microsoft Word and Microsoft Outlook add-ins. I do write quite a few emails and use Microsoft Word extensively.
The Outlook Add-in
The Outlook add-in isn’t as sophisticated as the Word add-on. The add-in is either on or off. There aren’t many things that are customizable with the piece of software.
The Word Add-in
The Word Add-on does much more than the Outlook add-on. Above, I have taken a screenshot of the Grammarly toolbar. Once the Word add-on is installed, a new tab will appear in your Microsoft Word program. On this tab, you can turn Grammarly on or off, change the writing style, choose what you want Grammarly to check for, set general settings, and also receive a tour of the program.
When using Grammarly, you can pick and choose what you want it to check for, or you can use any of the set writing styles that Grammarly has installed. At a quick glance, there are thirty-three different writing styles to choose from.
General is the default option, but if you preferred something a little more defined, you could choose any of the other options.
When using Grammarly, there will be a new window to the right of your document in Word. This window contains all the Grammarly finds.
Grammarly gives quick correction information, just like the spelling/grammar checker in Word, as seen in the picture to the left. This is a quick way to correct mistakes that are found in your writing. In order to correct the mistake, all you have to do is click on the green wording. If you don’t want to correct the mistake, you click on the “X.”
If you choose to have Grammarly explain to you why it picked up on what it did, you can click the down arrow and receive an explanation. There is a short explanation and a long explanation. The short explanation will briefly explain why you’re incorrect, but the long explanation will give you examples. The long explanation is the picture above, to the right.
A user can proceed through corrections in Grammarly by using the “Next” and “Previous” buttons.
There is also the ability to add words to a dictionary if you often type words that Grammarly thinks is wrong. Surprisingly, supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, did not bring up any errors in Grammarly.
Grammarly is more extensive than the built-in Word spelling/grammar check. Grammarly will pick up on so much more. What distinguishes Grammarly from Word’s built-in checker is the fact that Grammarly has styles to check for. Word doesn’t do that. Word checks for general mistakes and it may not tell you why you’re wrong. Sometimes Word gives a person hints, but it’s not going to explain as much.
I think Grammarly has the potential to be a wonderful tool, especially for younger people learning English and people learning English as a second language.
Grammarly didn’t seem to flag me for code or other items that would often be flagged as spelling errors, but I didn’t extensively test this out.
If you turn on the plagiarism check in Grammarly, you’re going to have plagiarism flags. It doesn’t matter what you write or if you just made it up off the top of your head. There are going to be flags. Grammarly is going to call you out on what you wrote. It can be a little tedious to click all of those flags off if you wanted the plagiarism check on for some reason.
Grammarly doesn’t have functionality for any other languages that I can see; Word does. I switch between Spanish and English in Word on occasion. Word can spell-check for me just as well in Spanish as it can for me in English.
If you’re using one of the Grammarly styles, the book review style, for example, there are going to be many things Grammarly catches that you don’t necessarily want it to check. I write in a more conversational manner, and I don’t care if I use contractions and personal pronouns. Grammarly cares a whole lot. I can change the style to endeavor to eliminate clicking off all the occurrences of Grammarly saying I can’t use “don’t” and that I shouldn’t use “you.” Grammarly is also going to flag you for things such as passive voice and propositions at the end of sentences, neither of which are technically wrong. I didn’t have the chance to try out all the Grammarly styles; there may be a style that doesn’t flag for those items.
What I would like to see out of Grammarly
First, I would like to see plugins/add-ins for Microsoft Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari. I have been told there will later be plugins/add-ins for some of these browsers.
Second, Grammarly needs a WordPress plugin. I write my posts in WordPress. I don’t write them in Word and then copy them over to WordPress. A WordPress plugin would do wonders for Grammarly. It would do wonders for the entire writing experience using WordPress. Copying from WordPress to Word to check errors with Grammarly is tedious, and the formatting of the text doesn’t copy back over from Word.
Third, Grammarly will have to branch out to other languages one day. I understand that this is a massive undertaking. Each language would essentially be its own database within Grammarly. Other languages use things like upside down question marks and letters that look Roman, but aren’t. Entirely different Grammar rules apply to other languages. Character based languages, like Japanese or Chinese, would be especially difficult to program for, but I’m sure it’s not impossible.
Fourth, Grammarly needs some more style options. I think it would be a good idea to have standard styles such as APA, MLA, and the Chicago Manual of Style, as options in styles. That way Grammarly could flag something and tell you, as the user, “You’re not supposed to use this thing when writing in APA format.” Who wants to lug around one of those APA usage books? If Grammarly could build that into its software, college students everywhere would rejoice.
I also think there needs to be an option to set your own style. There should be an option where you can check or uncheck what you want Grammarly to check for, and I’m not talking the general options you can turn on and off, I’m talking about specifics. For example, I would like the ability to turn off the check for personal pronouns, prepositions at the end of sentences, passive voice, and contractions. I’m sure there are more options I would like to turn off, but those are the ones that come to mind. Then this style could be saved as whatever you wanted to call it. You could make several styles of your own.
Grammarly, as is, has the potential to become obsolete. There will always be people who need its service, but I can see the product having a shelf-life for individuals. Let’s say you use Grammarly for a year. Under Grammarly’s tutelage, you get so good at spelling and grammar that you don’t need Grammarly anymore. That’s awesome for you; it’s not awesome for Grammarly. I think Grammarly is going to have to “bring it” to continue to be relevant to individual people for long periods of time, but that may not be their goal; their goal may be new subscribers. I know I don’t rely as heavily on spelling/grammar checkers as I used to.
In the end, Grammarly is a very useful tool, and I can see it having great usage in the academic world and for people learning English as a second language. Are your average, every-day people going to pay for Grammarly year after year? No, they’re not, but it is good for a period to improve writing skills.