I consider myself to be a decent writer when I have the time to focus and proofread my work. Unfortunately, that extra time is getting harder to come by.
I tend to avoid software that checks my spelling and grammar. As much as I would love for my writing to be perfect, a large portion of what I do is in a niche market that uses uncommon terms. As a result, a large portion of my work ends up marked as wrong.
Between trying to keep up with this niche market and reading the grammar and spelling mistakes that flood the internet, I worry about picking up bad habits. I do not want my “normal” writing, such as on this blog, to suffer. So I decided to give Grammarly a try.
Something neat: Grammarly tries to understand my writing!
Something neat about Grammarly, they give you a chance to “set goals” with your writing. Grammarly asks for the following information when I start a new document:
Intent: Informative, Describe, Convince, or Tell a Story
Audience: General, Knowledgeable, or Experts
Writing Style: Formal or Informal
Emotion: Mild or Strong (this setting is still experimental)
There is also a “Domain” selection which requires the premium upgrade. … Judging by the results I am getting as I try Grammarly, I think all of these settings would be more effective with the premium upgrade.
How do you feel about being spied on?
My big hesitation when it came to trying Grammarly or any other similar program is that obviously, the program will have to spy on my writing to be effective.
With Grammarly, I can choose to keep things more secure by only copying and pasting the text I want them to check to my online account. This helps relieve worries about them collecting private data. Unfortunately, all formatting including newlines disappeared the first time I pasted text from Grammarly back to the original application. Downloading the text as a .txt document preserves the newlines. But that is an extra step that lazy me does not want to mess with.
Grammarly can be installed as an add-in to Microsoft Office. I assume Microsoft will let you choose if it runs on Outlook, Word, or both. However, I am known to write rather personal letters in both Microsoft Outlook and Microsoft Word. So I chose to skip Grammarly for Microsoft Office.
Another option, which I did try for testing purposes, is to install Grammarly on your browser. I chose the Firefox plugin since that is the browser that I use for most of my usual, less security sensitive browsing.
The plugin is neat. I see the little green Grammarly icon refresh every couple of seconds as I type this article, ensuring that I have not made any major spelling or grammar mistakes. Hovering over the green Grammarly icon reveals a yellow circle with the number “12” to indicate that they have 12 suggestions to make my writing even better. If only I would upgrade to their premium version.
The temptation to upgrade to Grammarly Premium
I have to admit; it is tempting to upgrade to Grammarly Premium. I am curious what changes they would suggest. And a one-time payment of $139.95 per year sounds pretty reasonable if it will help improve my writing.
I will try this free version for a while longer and seriously consider the upgrade. The Grammarly website says that you can access your account from up to five devices. I would love to share this with my daughter as a way to double-check her school work!
Back to the security concerns. I suspect we will forget to use Grammarly if we have to copy and paste our text between the programs we use and their website. But I am worried about keeping Grammarly installed as a plugin, extension, or add-on to the applications that we use most.
I contacted Grammarly with my concerns about privacy and security. Their response: “Grammarly’s algorithms avoid text fields with passwords and sensitive information. Grammarly reads and corrects text only in message fields.”
Their software is supposed to ignore fields that contain sensitive information. … Of course, that depends on them writing their software correctly and on the websites you visit accurately identifying which fields request sensitive information. I do find some comfort in Grammarly’s response. Plus the firefox extension lets me turn off Grammarly for specific websites. But I still choose to pass more sensitive information through other browsers and devices.
The Premium Upgrade
The free version of Grammarly is excellent at catching those little spelling mistakes that come with a fast typing speed in a distracted environment! I do think that it will save me enough time throughout the year to be worth most of that $139.95 upgrade price. But is the premium upgrade worth it?
If you struggle with grammar, I would say yes! This program has a lot of suggestions to help make your writing more clear and correct.
For me personally? I am on the fence, leaning toward no. I choose to ignore most of the suggested changes:
- Grammarly said that I used the word “certificate” too many times in an article about SSL certificates.
- Undo / redo is limited to one step with the browser plugin. I re-wrote a sentence to see if Grammarly approved. It did, but the words just didn’t flow right. I thought a few quick Undos would restore my original writing. I was wrong!
- I do think there is room for improvement in how Grammarly integrates with my blog. I go into their editor to easily view the suggested changes. But the Grammarly editor does not have formatting. This is a distraction when the words are flowing. (Not a total complaint, but something on my mind)
There have been a few good suggestions:
- I almost never know when to use a semicolon. Grammarly suggested I throw one into my “I have to admit…” sentence above. I am still not sure if this is a better choice than my original comma. But I appreciate the opportunity to use this neglected punctuation.
- Programs that check my writing quality often accuse me of using a “passive voice,” but they do not tell me where the offense occurred. Grammarly highlights words and phrases to let me know where I have become too passive.
Update: January 7, 2019
At this point, I have spent over a month each with the free and premium versions of Grammarly. Today Grammarly tried to keep it fun by sending an email that I unlocked an “achievement.” I have a 12-week writing streak and am more productive than 83% of Grammarly users! And I used more unique words than 83% of Grammarly users. 🙂 My accuracy level is low. Probably because I type so many thought-fragments and other notes when I begin or update an article.
Although I still consider myself to be a decent writer on my own, it is nice to have an extra boost to help me catch simple mistakes and to remind me of some of the grammar rules.