I was approached by the people at Grammarly.com who wanted to sponsor one of my blog posts. I wanted to know more so offered to road test their site. They agreed and gave me a two-week premium trial, so here is my report…
The start could not have been easier. I’d already been set up on the system, so clicking on a link in the email took me straight to the first prompt (Paste / Upload) where the white space invited me to ‘Copy and paste your text here or upload your document, then press “Start Review”. They even provided a sample text if you had none of your own to use. I had plenty. 🙂 I chose an old college piece which I’ve been thinking of editing for submission, so a perfect example.
Clicking on the ‘Copy and paste…’ text clears the blank space and I pasted in my 1,828 words. This then activates the other options, the next being ‘Start Review’ and ‘Plagiarism’. I went to click ‘Start Review’ but found when I hovered my mouse over it, it came up with several choice. Was my piece a general (default), business, academic, technical, creative or casual piece. Needless to say, I went with ‘creative’ and clicked on ‘Start Review’ where it gave me a processing bar (warning me, ‘it may take some time to process your text’), but it only took a few seconds. It also showed me their Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/grammarly) and that they had had 728,544 hits. Wow.
Watching the progress bar increase its percentage was intriguing as it checks for a variety of factors including verb tenses, use of subjunctive, split infinitives, wrong prepositions, noun strings etc. (it was like being back at school). It came up with 68 issues found which sounds quite depressing, but it’s a story I wrote only a few weeks after I started writing eight years ago, so there are bound to be flaws.
On the right-hand side of the screen, it split those 68 issues into:
- Use of articles: 3
- Incorrect use of preposition: 1
- Pronoun agreement: 1
- Use of adjectives and adverbs: 1
- Comparing two or more things: 2
- Faulty parallelism: 1
- Confusing modifiers: 3
- Verb agreement: 1
- Verb form use: 1
- Other: 2
- Punctuation within a sentence: 40
- Spelling: 4
- Commonly confused words: 7
- Capitalization: 1
The first ‘error’ (paragraph four) was that I saw my character was ‘tucking into a low-fat Mexican chilli’ and that the ‘a’ should be removed, giving the equivalent of ‘a books’. I sort of agree although reading it out without the ‘a’ did feel weird, so the jury’s out on that one.
There is a choice at the top of the explanation screen for short and long explanations. The main difference is that the short will tell you what’s wrong and what the replacement should be, but the long explanation tells us why. Once you’ve looked through the reasoning, you have a choice of clicking x ignore or Next. I clicked on ignore, then scrolled back up to see that my previous error is still highlighted.
The next ‘use of articles’ was to remove ‘the’ from ‘to watch the TV’. I’m happy to change this.
I disagreed with the next one; to change ‘somewhere to go at the weekend’ to ‘somewhere to go to the weekend’ which is incorrect, so I clicked on ‘ignore’ which unhighlighted the text.
As I went through the list of errors (mentioned in the bullet points ahead), I clicked on ‘ignore’ if I disagreed, or ‘next’ if it was fine until I had been through the list. It certainly made me realise how many ways there are of getting your grammar wrong.
You can skip around the results process by clicking on the right-hand category. I went ahead to spelling where I was told that Laura should be Aura, and I had the option to add ‘Laura’ to the dictionary which I did. It also didn’t recognise the English spelling of ‘recognise’, so I had a bit of a dig around for languages.
I started at the Dashboard which showed me how many documents had been checked (1), the average score (68/100) and last year score trend. Below that it’s split into the category results with 3 confusing modifiers, 2 fault comparisons and one each of: adverb adjectives, article use, faulty parallelism, preposition use and verb tenses. On the right was an impressive ‘Morgen Personal Writing Handbook’ which I clicked on and it went through the categories individually.
I then clicked on the ‘Help’ button and was greeted with an FAQ listing with ‘Knowledge Base’ search bar. I typed in language but it didn’t help me change it although it did let me pose my question to the forum and support desk. I’m sure spending time around the site would solve that problem.
I then clicked on the ‘plagiarism’ button, which then gave me another progress bar, but again it only took a few seconds. This time it found 53 issues although they were grammar-related, so I’m not sure how relevant to plagiarism. It doesn’t say that my text has already been used elsewhere which is what I was expected. Again, I’m sure more practice of the site will explain this.
Once I had been through (almost) everything, I clicked on Save / Print report it creates a .pdf which you can save and print. If you have more to check, you just click on the ‘clear’ trash can and start again.
I went to the grammarly.com home page (where it told me that they have 16.5K Twitter followers and 521K Googe+ contacts). The home page provides an overview of the site, and the vast editing options. A page you will probably be interested in is the ‘Current Grammarly Subscription Plans’, which list three options:
- Monthly subscription: $29.95 per month
- Quarterly subscription: $19.98 per month (billed as one payment of $59.95)
- Annual subscription: $11.66 per month (billed as one payment of $139.95.
This may feel expensive but the latter is about the equivalent of 20 hours’ worth of an editors time.
Apart from my blips, it’s a very simple process – a little like a document ‘wizard’ if you’ve ever used one of those.
I used Grammarly to grammar check my story (and this post – 40 issues!) because whilst I figured that it won’t replace an editor, I had hoped (and was proven correct) that this is the ideal tool to use if you are planning on submitting to agents, publishing houses etc. It thinks of so many options for you that it should improve even the most experienced of writers (and perfect for those just starting out on the journey), and while you may not agree with everything the report offers, it’s certainly a big step to making your writing the best it can be.
Based in Northamptonshire, England, Morgen Bailey (“Morgen with an E”) is a prolific blogger, podcaster, editor / critiquer, Chair of NWG (which runs the annual H.E. Bates Short Story Competition), Head Judge for the NLG Flash Fiction Competition and creative writing tutor for her local council. She is also a freelance author of numerous ‘dark and light’ short stories, novels, articles, and very occasional dabbler of poetry. Like her, her blog, https://morgenbailey.wordpress.com, is consumed by all things literary. She is also active on Twitter, Facebook along with many others (listed on her blog’s Contact page).
She also recently created five online writing groups and an interview-only blog. Her debut novel is the chick lit eBook The Serial Dater’s Shopping List and she has six others (mostly crime) in the works.
She welcomes, and actively helps to promote, guest authors on her blog – see opportunities.
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