My Honest Grammarly Review from a Full Time Writer
- Catchings mistakes and protects you from bad reviews
- Can catch plagiarism and save you from a serious lawsuit
- Edit documents in minutes instead of hours
- Improves the overall quality of your writing and catches overused adjectives and metaphors
- Saves you on editor costs
- Can only handle documents up to 65 pages
- Only works online; if you get disconnected from the Internet, you must restart
- The WordPress integration doesn’t always work with complicated themes
- Occasionally gets caught in a loop and recommends a change and then reversing it over and over again
When I first heard that there was a piece of paid software that simply did spellcheck, I thought that was ridiculous. Why would anyone pay for spellcheck or grammar check when every computer comes with that ability for free. Then I heard that Grammarly will even run a spell check while I write blog posts like this one. But WordPress already does that. Who would pay for software that fixes a problem I don’t have? In this Grammarly review, I seek to share that answer.
- Updated for 2022
- My English Qualifications
- Writing Pays My Bills
- Taking Grammarly for a Test Drive
- My First Test
- Grammarly Premium
- Does Grammarly Make Mistakes?
- You Must Be Online
- Check Your Workers
- Plagiarism Checker
- Vocabulary Enhancement
- How Does Grammarly Work?
- I Read Some Negative Grammarly Reviews
- Grammarly Alternatives
- Final Recommendation
Updated for 2022
Unbeknownst to me, one of my old writers went into this post and did a rewrite last year. She change the link to the blog post which I would never do and added a bunch of nonsense content. I wondered why I was getting comments about the terrible English and grammar errors in this post. I’m going through and personally rewriting everything to fix the quality and give you the perspective of someone who makes real money as a writer and entrepreneur.
I’ve had the premium version of Grammarly since August of 2016 and since then a lot has changed. The core story is the same but I’ve shifted to using a competitor, even to edit this very article. I just don’t think the premium version is worth the investment for most people. Originally, I recommended the free version for most but now ProWritingAid has a better free version.
My English Qualifications
I was a serious nerd in high school, and perfect English was my passion. I got beat up when I laughed at a jock for mispronouncing a word, and because of my writing skills my English teacher would call me to the board to diagram the toughest sentences. On the PSAT I scored a PERFECT in the English section. I didn’t miss a single question, and in case you’re wondering I only missed one question in math.
I was so ahead in high school that I skipped a year in college and graduated at twenty-one. I traveled around the world for most of my twenties. My primary occupation was teaching English as a foreign language. I received my first post-graduate certificate from the University of Wales, Swansea. This educational institution is renowned for its English program.
In my career, I taught English at high schools, universities, and major corporations, including Standard and Poor. I eventually earned a Masters’s Merit from King’s College in London in English and Applied Linguistics.
King’s College is the best school on earth for this advanced English degree. My dissertation was so excellent that a publishing house contacted me about releasing my writing into the wild. That dissertation is the first book I published.
With multiple post-graduate qualifications, a published dissertation, and a teaching career that began with a perfect score on the PSAT, I couldn’t imagine what something like Grammarly review could possibly offer me. My experience makes me uniquely qualified review this product.
Writing Pays My Bills
I make a living from my writing and generate over one million words a year. I have over three hundred Amazon bestsellers under my belt, as well as multiple direct response contracts. I have run several successful blogs, including this one, which has a lot of content about becoming a better writer.
When you charge forty thousand dollars to ghostwrite a book, you take it pretty seriously. I am very hesitant to add any tools or software to my workflow. The written word is my living, and like many successful writers, I am set in my ways. Even though, success doesn’t come overnight.
I make a living from writing and that makes me uniquely qualified to write this comprehensive Grammarly review.
During the pre-release phase for my bestseller Serve No Master book launch in 2016, I sent out over three hundred review copies. Every single review was glowing, except for one. One reviewer was brutal and tore me to shreds. She compared me to an amateur and suggested that I join a group for wannabe authors to get help with my editing.
It was unbelievable. It was brutal. I had to take action.
Taking Grammarly for a Test Drive
My first step was to try out Grammarly for myself. I went to the website, signed up for the free version, and downloaded the Grammarly desktop app. I couldn’t find any information online about the difference between the free and paid versions, but don’t worry I will explain that below.
Honestly, I was expecting nothing from this software. With my qualifications and expertise, I assumed that there would be zero spelling errors and zero writing errors. Oh the hubris of my youth! I really didn’t know how accurate Grammarly would be, and then it kicked me in the teeth.
After loading in the first chapter of my book, I found dozens of “critical errors” and other mistakes that Grammarly demanded I fix instantly.
My First Test
This is the original edit of my book before I ever used Grammarly. It found loads of tiny mistakes and habits that I picked up in the UK. You may notice that in a series I don’t use a comma before the word and. This is a habit I picked up abroad that really drives Grammarly crazy. They don’t know which set of grammar rules to use for my writing.
I didn’t expect Grammarly to come up with any mistakes. According to Word and Scrivener, this page was without errors. Grammarly is in a league all on its own.
This one test is all to took to convince me to run my entire book through Grammarly.
Grammarly has several levels of error correction. The first level is a basic spell-check. This spell check is light years beyond what anyone else is doing but compared to the rest of what Grammarly can do it is pretty simple.
When you use the free version of Grammarly, they do everything in their power to convince you to upgrade to the pro version. I thought this was silly. How could the pro version be any better than this?
Grammarly will show you that your page has dozens of “critical errors” but won’t reveal them unless you pay. They were playing upon my paranoia, and I finally bit the bullet and paid for the upgrade.
With the paid version of Grammarly, you get:
- Passive Voice Check
- Repetitive Word Check
- Plagiarism Check
- Word Confusion Check
- Wordiness Check
- Confusion Check
I never realized how much I use the passive voice in my writing. It was a real kick in the teeth, but Grammarly doesn’t pull any punches. In the free version, Grammarly catches the mistakes that will affect your grades in high school. If you want to sound professional, the free version is all that you need.
The premium version is $12 a month or $15 a month per person for Grammarly Business. I think that’s a poor investment and really not something I would recommend to any company I’ve worked with. Grammarly is a wonderful tool but the price doesn’t match the ability when it comes to the premium version.
My book, Serve No Master, is at least thirty percent better thanks to Grammarly. The sentences flow better, and the story construction is smoother, as you will see in this Grammarly Review.
Grammarly is not a replacement for writing ability, but it is an excellent accelerator.
Does Grammarly Make Mistakes?
Yes. Sometimes I use an expression that Grammarly is unfamiliar with. Earlier this week I used the phrase “The Law of Effection” on this very blog. The Grammarly extension tried to convince me that I meant “affection.” This makes sense because ninety-nine percent of the time affection would be the right word. This is why you have to work with Grammarly, rather than just assume that every suggestion is correct. (As a side note, the ProWritingAid extension also put a red line under it.)
Grammarly is a powerful tool but you cannot simply turn off your mind when you use it. It will only catch spelling mistakes of you create a word that doesn’t exist. If you accidentally put the wrong word, it may slip past Grammarly’s gatekeepers.
Overall, the mistakes are minor and the software is regularly updated. The grammar checkers has been updated hundreds of times in the six years I’ve used the software and it is constantly improving.
Sometimes Grammarly will get caught in a “suggestion loop.” It recently got caught telling me to change “cellphone” to “cell phone” and back. This is a small thing that you can easily overlook and will occur less and less as the software improves.
Here is another example from later in this blog post. In this case, Grammarly wants me to use the plural of editing. If you read the sentence, you may agree with me that the singular makes more sense. Even if it turns out that I’m “technically” wrong, most people would expect the singular and assume that using the word “editings” was a mistake. Perception is just as important as perfection, and I would rather keep the people who read my books and blog posts happy.
It’s very important to understand that Grammarly is based on a set of grammar rules. It’s like a very strict hall monitor and the rules are what everything is based on. It’s a great tool to use as part of your writing process, but you need to be aware that it will always think you should edit quotes and style choices will be underlined in red.
You Must Be Online
The biggest annoyance with Grammarly is that it does not work if you are offline. It’s a tool that requires an Internet connection to even activate. If you’re wi-fi drops for even a second, Grammarly will freeze. With the Mac version of the software, I have to close and restart every time this happens. The reconnect button never works for me.
It’d be useful if the software could leave a remote version of itself on my computer so that I could be unshackled from the Internet while I’m working.
I realize that forcing the Internet connection is how the system learns. Every day millions of people use this software, and in this Grammarly Review, you’ll see that is always learning and adapting. This form of machine learning is currently benevolent; it is only focused on improving its understanding of the English language.
In the future, the software may become self-aware. Hopefully, the people behind Grammarly Review are watching for just such an event and will disconnect Grammarly before it becomes Skynet.
I think we can all agree that nobody wants sentient spellcheck.
Check Your Workers
This week I met a new writer who was interested in ghostwriting for me. I currently have so much work on my plate that I’m desperately looking for more writers to bring to the team to help me out. She has excellent qualifications and has written thousands of articles and blog posts for other clients. I asked her to send over a sample of her writing, and if everything was ok, I would give her work immediately.
I immediately uploaded her document into Grammarly.
Grammarly caught over 160 mistakes that would have taken me hours to find on my own. The problem is not that she’s making these kinds of mistakes; it’s that she’s not editing her work to catch them before sending it to me.
Now that I use Grammarly as part of my process flow, it has become indispensable.
If you are paying article writers, blog posters or other ghostwriters you should run their work through Grammarly before releasing their content on your sites. In the future, I will be training my writers to use this software to tighten up their work before they send me anything.
I use other tools as part of my blog writing flow, including Surfer SEO that helps to optimize my articles. I expect a writer to be able to get a high Surfer score AND avoid writing weird sentences just to stuff in another keyword. The Grammarly Chrome Extension integrates with my WordPress dashboard as well as Google Docs, so writers can edit and optimize their documents simultaneously. I have Surfer and the ProWritingAid plugin both running during this rewrite so I can edit and optimize at the same time.
I’m not entirely certain how the Grammarly plagiarism algorithm works. As far as I can tell, the software scans the Internet for matching words, but I have yet to see any indication that it checks published works such as magazine articles, books, and other “offline” content. You may need something more serious if you are worried about plagiarism from a worker.
Here is a simple test run on three paragraphs of text from The Millionaire Fastlane:
As you can see, Grammarly wants to make a few changes to the actual text. Ignore that for now and focus on the yellow line. Grammarly underlines stolen content in yellow. It has done a good job of catching that there is plagiarism on the page, but there is a problem. The entire document is stolen. I copied and pasted these three paragraphs from the book.
It’s important to understand how the plagiarism checker builds its database. If I’m correct and it only scans online content, then anything published physically won’t be added to the database. If you’re blogging, this may not be a big deal but if you’re checking a book you’re about to publish or a college paper, you might think you’re in the clear when you’re not.
Now we want to see just how useful the plagiarism checker is.
When you click for more information, Grammarly helpfully provides the correct reference. This would have been amazing back when I was in college working on term papers. Unfortunately, it appears that the only reason Grammarly caught this plagiarism is that the author includes the same story in his “about me” page on his website.
When I test other parts of the book that are not on his website, Grammarly doesn’t catch them.
Copyscape is the gold standard when it comes to plagiarism detection. Their tool uses the exact same rule set and only checks online content. The main purpose of these tools is to see if a writer you’ve hired has submitted something they didn’t write. For that use case, this is a reason to invest in Grammarly Premium. You can run unlimited plagiarism checks, whereas Copyscape and ProWritingAid charge you for each check.
The plagiarism powerful bonus tool will detect most traditional plagiarism by writers you might hire and can save you from legal hassles down the line. This is a good way to protect yourself from paying for stolen content.
This is one feature where Grammarly dominated the competition with the best plagiarism checker pricing on the market. I don’t really think you should have to pay each time you want to check someone’s work, so that alone could be a reason to upgrade from Grammarly free to a premium version.
Unless you are writing for an audience, you may want to turn this tool off. Sometimes Grammarly is very contentious and will keep suggesting that I change a word, even though my choice was intentional. This tool is the most annoying but also the most powerful. It suggests alternatives and synonyms to words that you use too frequently. A current weakness of Grammarly is that it can only handle about ten thousand words at once, so you can’t upload an entire book.
Scanning one section at a time leads Grammarly to tell you to remove a word from one chapter and then use that same word all the time in the next one. It doesn’t track your word usage from section to section. This looks like it will change over time, but for now, some of the recommendations are silly.
There are certain words that Grammarly hates, such as “own” and “really.” You can expect Grammarly to chop those out of everything you write ninety percent of the time you need to remove them. However, occasionally you want to keep one of those words for emphasis.
This is where Grammarly shines. Many other tools out there offer to help correct spelling and grammar mistakes, but Grammarly goes the extra mile and helps you become a better writer. As someone who has written multiple bestsellers, I can honestly say that Grammarly has improved the quality of my writing.
Rewriting this review in 2022, I had to recheck this section. A part of me was sure that by now Grammarly could handle larger documents. They’ve had six years to do it but nothing has changed. The same document loaded into ProWritingAid in less than two seconds without a problem. If I’m going to use a style guide or tool in a book, I want it to run the whole book at once. I write different books and articles with different tones of voice, so the idea that i can mix and match different documents inside of Grammarly has me uneasy.
I want to know if I’m using the same phrase too often throughout the book, rather than just within a single chapter.
How Does Grammarly Work?
The Grammarly Online Editor
There are currently several Grammarly tools, with more expected in the near future. The most common tool is simply the website. You copy and paste in your text and then wait a few moments while the Grammarly engine scans your document. You correct all the changes you desire from the list of recommendations, often with the click of a mouse. Once you are satisfied with your corrections, you copy and paste from Grammarly back to your preferred word processor.
Grammarly maintains much of the original formatting, but advanced changes will be lost. If you have parts of your document bolded or centered, that will get lost when you copy and paste. This may be a problem with the notepad rather than Grammarly, but it can be annoying. It’s much better to finish all of your editing before you start formatting your document.
You can also upload documents in Word format as long as they are small enough to handle. All of my work is too long for Grammarly, so I copy and paste piece by piece.
Grammarly Desktop App
Unless I’m writing a blog post, my preferred way to use Grammarly is the stand-alone desktop app. This application only works when you are connected to the Internet, but I prefer it to using the web-based interface. I have already run nearly 200,000 words through the Grammarly app, and I’m consistently pleased with the results. Like the web version, this one can only handle documents of moderate size.
I have already run over
200,000 3.3 million words through the Grammarly app, and I’m consistently pleased with the results. Like the web version, this one can only handle documents of moderate size.
I copy and paste my work into Grammarly section by section. This works well for me as that is how I write in Scrivener anyways. I write one section at a time, so it makes sense to edit in the same manner.
I do find it strange that the program cannot work locally and update from the central Grammarly server whenever I am next online. This may be how they protect their software from being stolen, but I am hopeful that eventually, they will release a version I can host on my machine. (still hasn’t happened)
I did run into an issue last week where the Grammarly app told me that several chapters in a row had zero mistakes. I was instantly suspicious and double-checked my chapters using the web interface. Suddenly, a dozen errors popped up.
There was some type of communication error between the software and the Grammarly server. Fortunately, the website didn’t have this problem, and I was able to continue working. A few hours later, I rechecked the same chapters in the Grammarly app, and it was working perfectly again. I do wish the software had notified me of this communication error rather than giving me a false positive.
For a moment I was so proud that I’d finally written an error-free chapter that met Grammarly’s high standards. When the second section also seemed perfect, I became suspicious.
You do have to be active when using Grammarly. It is not a replacement for active thought or a human editor. It is an advisor and a supplement to point out areas and words that you might want to change.
Chrome/Firefox Browser Extension
The browser extension is pretty great, and I use it to help me with every blog post that I write. You better believe that I am scanning with Grammarly while I write this. Grammarly will catch a lot of errors in real-time and underline them in red.
You can make your edits inline like in this image:
Here you can see that I messed up two words while writing. These are silly little mistakes that you don’t want to let pass you by. These corrections don’t always show up while I’m editing within my WordPress interface. It has something to do with how often I save my draft and the length of the blog post. You may have noticed that this one is especially long. To change the word I just click on the green word that is spelled correctly. It’s very fast.
For advanced changes, you have to click a little red circle at the bottom of the blog post. This circle pulls up the Grammarly interface in a light box that hovers over the current page. In Grammarly Review you’ll see some of the errors Grammarly catches can only be corrected with the light box. For example, Grammarly does NOT like that I said “let pass you by” in the first sentence of the previous paragraph.
This error can only be fixed in the Grammarly light box. I have to click on the red “correct with Grammarly” button. I believe this is more of a limitation of the WordPress interface than the plugin. Grammarly wants to explain to me in detail why they want me to change that sentence. Grammarly wants to keep me in the loop on this decision.
In this case, I’m not sure that I agree with Grammarly’s assessment, so I will leave the sentence the way I wrote it. Grammarly is not intended to replace my brain, only to be a supplement and advisor.
Whether you edit along the way or not, you want to run a final check of a blog post or article before launching it into the universe. Use the light box interface before you click “publish” on your blog post. Not every mistake shows up in the inline editor.
I now use the Grammarly browser extension more than the other two versions. It’s the easiest way to edit a blog posts, emails or social media posts without making yourself look silly. Because I’m an author, If there are grammatical mistakes in anything I write…people let me know.
MS Word Plugin
There is now a Grammarly plugin for Microsoft Word. This only works on PC right now, and Mac users like me will have to wait a little while longer. The plugin is still in its infancy, so I expect some growing pains. For now, I would recommend using the dedicated Grammarly interface for the final check of any document you work on.
I don’t use Word very much, so this plugin isn’t relevant to my workflow yet. Once the Mac version comes out, I will install it and update this review.
I am more interested in a Scrivener plugin or integration. When they develop that, Grammarly will finally knock off the last of my socks.
It’s 2022 and the plugin still doesn’t work for Word. I just tried installing it again and the app store is full of 1-star reviews from users for a reason. You have to login to Microsoft 365 to connect the app and then it froze for me. It’s really not worth the hassle. If you’re a PC user with this plugin working, please share your experience in the comments below.
I Read Some Negative Grammarly Reviews
I have noticed that there are a few pretty strong negative reviews about Grammarly online right now. I took the time to look at the people leaving those reviews. Most of them are either British or professional editors who fear that Grammarly is seeking to replace them. Their fear reminds me of the first time I showed a drum machine to my roommate who was a professional drummer. The thought that I could replace him with a little machine did not put a smile on his face.
It’s worth noting that he is still making a fine living touring the world playing the drums, and there are no out-of-work drummers sitting on the side of the road holding up “will drum for food signs.”
There is no way that Grammarly will ever replace a human editor. It requires intelligence and refinement to decide which writing mistakes are really mistakes and which are intentional. These software tools are nothing more than helpers for editors and people who can’t afford an editor.
Are You English or Canadian?
In the past, international reviewers were upset that Grammarly only offered American English. Those days are in the past and you can now choose between FOUR English variants. You can choose American, British, Australian or Canadian. If you’re from New Zealand or South Africa, I guess you need to keep waiting.
Can it replace an editor?
There are also some pretty harsh reviews from “grammar professionals” and professional book editors. These reviews have the taint of desperation to them as the reviewers are clearly afraid that the software is designed to replace them.
Like the imaginary homeless drummer, their fears are unjustified and their reviews unreliable. They fail to grasp that Grammarly is not a replacement for the human mind. They have nothing to fear.
This is a tool for writers, not editors, so their reviews are irrelevant. Do you care if a professional swimmer posts a negative review about a pair of sneakers? You want to follow reviews by people who will use the software as you do. If you are a professional writer, blogger, article writer, or ghostwriter then hopefully you connected with my review as this is how I make my living.
This tool is not intended to replace editors; they have nothing to fear. The software is a long way from developing sentience, so their jobs are secure for a little longer.
When I wrote the first version of this review in 2017, Grammarly was the best option out there. There was no competition and it blew the grammar checkers in Word and Scrivener out of the water. Since then, some serious competition has entered the market and now Grammarly is starting to look like a one trick pony that’s a little long in the tooth.
I finally switches out my Chrome plugin and honestly haven’t used Grammarly in quite some time now. Grammarly is good, but here are some options that bring more features to the table.
Grammarly v ProWritingAid
ProWritingAid is my primary tool at this point as it’s just beaten Grammarly at their own game. The finally released a free version and that’s the one thing Grammarly had on them for a long time. I used to recommend starting with the free license of Grammarly and then when you upgrade to go for lifetime license on ProWritingAid. With the free level, you can go straight to the best. Here’s what makes ProWritingAid better:
- Less Error Loops – Grammarly will tell you to correct something and the new answer is underlined and it will switch back to the old phrase it will tell you is wrong and you end up in an infinite loop
- Scrivener Integration – I can put an entire book’s Scrivener file straight into ProWritingAid, process the book in their editor and push it back to Scrivener. This is a slow and arduous process with the competition
- Features for Authors – Most grammar checkers are created for bloggers. ProWritingAid is focused on authors and long form content so it has a lot of features and advanced ways of assessing your content that Grammarly doesn’t even try.
- Lifetime License – You page once and you have the full-featured premium version forever. My software updates all the time and I don’t have to worry about a monthly hit on my credit card.
Grammarly v Writer
Writer is the new kid on the block and it’s really focused on getting to know you. It’s an interesting angle and part of the whole artificial intelligence writing tools shift in the market. The idea is that it gets to know your writing style and adapts to your language more and more over time. The value of using Writer boils down to how effective it is at this one trick.
If I can have someone else write an article and then run it through Writer so that it sounds like me, well then that would be very impressive indeed. I have to play around with Writer before I can give you a better answer than that. If you’re in that unique case and don’t mine the significant charge for having multiple writers on a team using the tool it might be for you.
I don’t recommend Grammarly anymore. After five years I’m closing my account. It’s just not keeping up with the competition and ProWritingAid has really set the standard in this market for me. They have a free tier, more features, can handle longer documents, a better browser plugin and they have a lifetime upgrade option. While everyone else is charging you every month or year, with ProWritingAid it’s one and done.
You may notice that if you click on my old Grammarly link it takes you to ProWritingAid. That’s how much more I prefer the tool. It’s aces and you should try it right now.