Grammarly: is it any good for website writers?

So I finally got past the mystique of the so-called “free grammar checker” that you actually have to pay for. I coughed up. Why? Overwhelming curiosity, and the fact that no matter how carefully I write and punctuate, it invariably says I did something wrong. It won’t tell me what, at least, not until I pay the price, so I took the plunge.

What should website writers expect from Grammarly?

You can sum it up in two words: “No surprises.”

Machines can’t write. They can’t edit either. Grammarly was quite good at finding places where commas should be, but it didn’t spot them all. It spotted a deliberate fragment, but it missed several glaring grammatical errors. It muttered here and there about use of passive voice, which is only dicey if you use it to be vague or wordy, and it said that some jolly useful words were “overused”. Guess why they’re overused? Oh yes, I just told you. It’s because they’re darned handy.

I still don’t know what to think about plag checkers

“Plagiarism,” it’s a dirty word. I never copy anyone, but there are still only a finite amount of ways to state a simple fact. How can I consistently score zero% for plag? I once ran one piece through five different plagiarism checkers and got five different results. None of them was bad enough to worry about, but how does that happen? The site that gave me the worst score sold editing services. This may have affected the result I got.

I still don’t get it. They’d have you believe it’s a science, but with such an amount of variability between checkers, it’s hard to take any of them seriously. I have a feeling Grammarly isn’t the best one.

Is Grammarly guilty of misleading advertising?

Far be it from me to make any accusations. After all, Grammarly does offer human editing services for a fee over and above the automated version. This in itself should tell you that they know it won’t give you a perfectly edited draft. Nevertheless, if you visit the home-page, your browser tab is marked “Free Grammar Checker”, which Grammarly isn’t, and the YouTube ad I saw implied that you’d get the best letters and reports after an automated editing.

Then again, the “free” bit may be the part when it gives you a report without details on where to find the presumed error. In that case, it checks for free, but tells you nothing. It’s a small distinction, but probably significant to people with a legal background. As for using it to polish your work, a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and so it seems, is an automated editor. Perhaps the expectation of perfection that the ad creates is based on using a human editor from Grammarly for a fee. It doesn’t explicitly say that the automated checker is all you need.

Misleading? A bit, unless you’re very alert. Watch what they don’t say as carefully as you attend to what they do say, and it isn’t.

Is it worth it?

Honestly, I don’t think so. If you’re already quite a good writer, it might give you some pointers, but you may find yourself happy to ignore many of its recommendations. It won’t pick up all grammar and punctuation errors, and the jury is out regarding the plagiarism checker. If you’re a good writer, it’s annoying. If you’re a bad writer, it will help a bit, but won’t spot everything. There will still be errors in your work. All in all, I expect I’ll be cancelling my subscription within the one-week grace period.

Update

I didn’t expect it to be easy to cancel my subscription, but one thing you can’t fault Grammarly on is their support service. I received same-day service, and my subscription fee was returned to PayPal without hassle. That’s pretty impressive. If you want to try Grammarly, I can tell you at first-hand that the risks are low. If, like me, you didn’t find it particularly useful, you’ll get your money back, so go ahead and give it a try if you’re curious. Nice one, Grammarly!

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About andreadurrheim

I'm an ex-horticulturist turned horticultural journalist turned radio broadcaster and general freelance writer. I'm hoping to promote my work through my blog and find out more about other writers too!
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