Why I Still Use Grammarly (Although It’s So Often Wrong)

I’m sure you’ve seen the ad. With Grammarly, you’re going to write perfect emails, blog posts, articles, and letters. Well, save yourself the trouble. You won’t write anything even approaching perfection unless you already know what you’re doing.

Despite the fact that I find Grammarly amazingly dumb at times, I do still use it. I’ll tell you why in a minute. But first, let’s look at its failings.

The Annoying Side of Grammarly

When I first got Grammarly, I was so disappointed that I asked for a refund. Here’s why:

  • It’s a drama queen: every “issue” it picks up is “critical.” You have no idea how irritating I find this. Especially when I go through proposed changes and find that most of things it has tagged as critical aren’t issues at all.
  • It tags passive voice as an “error,” but passive voice is often appropriate. It exisits for a reason, and it’s not incorrect. If you’re writing something even vaguely academic, Grammarly is going to hammer you.
  • It makes incorrect suggestions that can really mess up your work. If you use Grammarly, NEVER just click through and blindly accept everything it suggests. Grammarly makes more mistakes than I do, and if you want me to prove it, I will.
  • US spelling is the only correct spelling as far as Grammarly is concerned. If there’s a setting for UK English, I haven’t found it. While I’m quite happy to use US spelling in a US context, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and just about everybody else prefers UK spelling.
  • Its punctuation isn’t all that great either. Not every style guide approves the serial comma, and there have been times when Grammarly has suggested punctuation changes that are just plain wrong no matter which style guide you’re using.

So WHY Do I Still Use Grammarly?

I had to remind myself of this quite recently when Grammarly docked my year’s subscription during a particularly quiet month when I could seriously have done without an unexpected payment. I discontinued automatic renewal right away, but I kept the year’s subs. Here’s why:

  • Grammarly picks up wrong word choices quite well. You know how it is. You’re writing away like a demon, and you type the wrong word. You check afterwards, but your eye slips over the culprit. Ouchy! The same goes for editing. I recently failed to pick up that a client I was doing editing work for had written “legalisation” instead of “legislation.” Grammarly spotted it.
  • The comma suggestions are worth considering. Although I don’t always agree with Grammarly’s punctuation suggestions, there are times when I have to concede that it’s perfectly right. Because I know that Grammarly isn’t always correct, I might do a spot of Googling, and in this way, I learn as I go.
  • It points out “wordiness.” Long sentences aren’t always a disaster, but they’re often hard to follow, and if they don’t get tangled in the writer’s mind, they get tangled in the reader’s. If you’ve written a sentence that’s four or five lines long, you probably need to look at breaking it up into two or even three sentences.

Do I recommend Grammarly? Well, no. Nevertheless, I use it. Will I renew my subscription? I’m in two minds about that. I will say that it has helped me to edit my own work critically. As an editor on its own, though, it’s perfectly useless.

Let the Buyer Beware

If you’re thinking of trying Grammarly, go ahead. Just remember that it’s not always right. How does it get away with saying that it will help you produce perfect writing? Well, it has human editors available. To use them, there’s an additional fee. The very fact that it offers this service shows that Grammarly is not labouring under any illusions. Its software is far from perfect.

However, that’s really good news for writers and editors. Bad writers aren’t going to become good writers just because they use Grammarly. To get good work, even perfect work, you still need a human being.

If you’re already quite good at the technical side of writing, Grammarly can be a useful tool. It can help you to improve your writing and get over a few little vices. And by the way, despite Grammarly’s advertising, the free version is even less useful than the paid one. But if you can’t write with technical proficiency, you need lessons, not Grammarly.


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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