I’ve been wanting to review Grammarly.com for accuracy, helpfulness, and ease of use. How can it be so popular when almost every business blog I read is full of embarrassing writing mistakes and typos that reflect the writer’s apathy? In fact, so many blog owners actually come right out and say that writing mistakes don’t matter!
Nothing can take the place of a live human being writing raw and editing hard. However, Grammarly might be a worthwhile
crutch aid when you’re just starting out and want to discover what Artificial Intelligence has to say about language and grammar.
With this in mind, I wrote the first draft of this post on the Grammarly app. Let’s see how I (and it) measure up.
The Grammarly app itself is easy to use. For people with a free account, the app checks only spelling and critical grammar issues. Those with a Premium account ($12 per month if you pay yearly, $30 per month if you pay monthly) get a whole lot more, including the following:
- advanced grammar check
- insulting language check (LOVE this)
- parallelism alerts
- vocabulary enhancement suggestions
- plagiarism detector
- word choice suggestions according to genre
- awkward words and sentences
- checking for unnatural phrasing
The Grammarly app lets you set four categories: audience, writing style, emotion, and intent. I’ve set this post as being geared toward a general audience, with an informal writing style, and containing “mild” emotion. The intent of the post is to describe (as opposed to “inform,” “convince,” or “tell a story”).
How’m I doing?
Up to this point, my first draft scored between 91 and 98 percent (it changes frequently). This means that it was better than 91 to 98 percent of all other Grammarly users’ writing. On the Flesch reading scale, however, it scored only a 56, meaning it could be read by someone with at least a 9th-grade education. For a general audience/informal writing style/mild emotion/intent to describe-type article, the app says to aim for a Flesch score of between 60 and 70 – which gears it to the average 8th grader.
The additional writing issues Grammarly found in my first draft were word choice (3 violations) and wordy sentences (2). The only problem is that I have to get Premium in order to find out which words they want me to replace, and which sentences are too wordy! The app also suggested very politely to “consider adding a comma” after “Flesch reading scale” (see previous paragraph). Thanks, guys.
I found that I was writing a bit unnaturally on the Grammarly app, as if I were looking over my shoulder, worried I’d write something Grammarly didn’t like. Obviously, that is no way to write; your piece won’t come out sounding normal, and your own unique voice won’t shine through.
One way to prevent this while you’re using the Grammarly app is to hide the Assistant function until you finish the entire piece. That way, you won’t constantly be checking your writing performance. You can enable it when you finish. Another way is to write your piece on a simple Word document, and copy and paste it into the Grammarly app after you’re done.
By the time I finished writing the first draft of this post, I was at 93 percent on the Grammarly text scale and 64 on the Flesch scale. I still had 2 unnaturally long sentences, but ended up with 5 word choice problems!
Grammarly also gave me 4 incorrect suggestions from the “alert” function, which I was able to flag as incorrect. Take that, O machine! Artificial Intelligence isn’t (yet) perfect, and honestly, I hope it never will be.
My final score
Everything you’ve read so far is the final draft of this post. I plugged it into the app, and I ended up with a score of 95 on the Grammarly scale and 69 on the Flesch reading scale. But I now have 8 “word choice” issues and was slapped this time with 3 wordy sentences.
Grammarly could be a nice crosscheck for high school and college students, sort of like a sophisticated Spell Check. It might give a bit of reassurance before one’s essay or book report goes out into the big, wide world. It also might be a nice app for those who have a lot of business emails to write and are unsure of their spelling or grammar skills. Likewise, people for whom English is not their native tongue can get quick and dirty help. They might be able to save themselves embarrassment when trying to impress potential bosses or love interests.
But beware: All except one of the suggestions from the alert function turned out to be inappropriate (their word, not mine). For instance, “5 word choice problems” was flagged as needing a hyphen, as in: “5-word choice problems.” I might have word-choice problems, but I certainly don’t have choice problems that are 5 words long.
Another thing to think about is whether you want to engage with the original or the Cliff Notes. In today’s world, many if not most people would rather just barf anything out on the page and get the servant (i.e., Grammarly) to clean it all up. I despise this attitude, but acknowledge that it’s pretty prevalent and not worth the diatribe I was just about to deliver.
Worst case scenario
One of the fears I have with regard to Grammarly is that it will ultimately dumb down the youngest 2 or 3 generations even further than they’re already being dumbed down as we speak.
What’s more, I hate to think of Grammarly becoming the mandatory final station that everyone will stop at before their writing disembarks into the world. Will there eventually be a cessation of creativity, uniqueness, and choice? Would e.e. cummings score only 25 percent on the Grammarly scale? Is literature on track to becoming one gigantic Stepford wife?
For me, it’s also a moral issue. Like, why would someone want to stay mediocre? Doesn’t everybody want to master as many skills as possible – including excellent writing and perfect spelling and grammar? Wouldn’t you want to gear your diction to someone more sophisticated than the average 9th grader? It seems that the only skill some people want to master these days is how to be “good enough” with the least amount of exertion possible.
The thing is, I’m preaching to the choir.
You wouldn’t be reading my blog if you weren’t interested in being a better-than-just-mediocre writer. And I love you for it. I support you and admire you. You are swimming upstream in a sea of smooth sailors.
Keep up your excellence!! And keep reading my blog. You are part of the small but mighty tribe of those who want to be the best version of themselves. And remember,