An Honest Grammarly Review by a Bestselling Author
Grammarly Grammar and Spell Check
Runs spell and grammar checks in the background while you work. Always getting smarter and learns how you write. Does ninety percent of the work of a professional editor.
Considering how powerful this tool really is, it's astounding at how simple the interface is. Editing massive documents is three times faster than using the Word tool. Errors and suggested changes are easy to read.
Most people think that spell and grammar checking should be free. We are used to them as part of our word processors. However, this product will save you more than it's price in time-saved alone during the first month.
Summary: As a professional author, I can't afford to let mistakes out the door. When I first heard that people were paying for a spell check, I thought they were ridiculous. Once I took Grammarly for a spin, I changed my tune. I have improved the quality and speed of my writing. In the first week of use, Grammarly paid for itself ten times over. I can charge higher rates for projects and release books much faster.
- 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
Free for Basic; $139.95/year for Premium
When I first heard that there was a piece of paid software that simply did a 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.
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 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 went on to many adventures, but my primary profession 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 with 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. My 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 could possibly offer me. My experience makes me uniquely qualified to review Grammarly.
Writing Pays My Bills
I make a living from my writing and generate over one million words a year. I have dozens of Amazon bestsellers under my belt, as well as multiple direct response contracts. I run several successful blogs, including this one, teaching other people how to become amazing writers.
When you make six-figures from your writing, 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.
It's important to understand that 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 most recent book launch, 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 and review Grammarly for myself. I went to the website, signed up for the free version and downloaded the software. 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. I am a pretentious writer after all. How could I possibly have any spelling or grammar mistakes…and then Grammarly 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. I use Scrivener for my primary writing tool, and it has the worst spell check of any software in the world. It is astoundingly bad. It's the best word processor I have ever used, but the spell and grammar check is hot garbage backing on the sidewalk on a Summer's day. It's awful.
I always export my work into Microsoft Word to run their superior spellcheck software. Before Grammarly saw this chapter, it went through an extensive editing process. After writing the book, I had an editor go through the entire project. Then I personally did three complete readthroughs and re-edits. I had hundreds of reviewers scan the book for any mistakes.
I expected Grammarly to find perfection; I was wrong. This Grammarly review is based on my experience.
My First Grammarly 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.
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.
What is the Difference Between Free and Paid
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 are turning in reports to your English teacher, the free version is more than enough.
But if you are doing any form of creative writing or want people to pay for your language, then you want the full version. The paid version makes me a better writer. It helps me to find better words when I get stuck using the same adjective too often. My latest book is at least thirty percent better thanks to Grammarly. The sentences flow better, and the story construction is smoother.
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. Grammarly 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.
Grammarly is a powerful tool but you cannot simply turn off your mind when you use it. The mistakes are minor and the software is regularly updated. The affection suggestion no longer appears when I check that phrase in Grammarly; the database changed in the past few days.
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.
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 Grammarly and the software 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 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.
Grammarly Bonus Tip – 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 onto 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 ghost writers 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.
Grammarly Bonus Tip – Dealing with Plagiarism
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 an 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.
Now we want to see just how useful the plagiarism detector 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.
Grammarly is not a replacement for CopyScape yet, but it's getting pretty good. I expect that in the near future Grammarly will add published text to its database and start catching these types of errors as well. For now, the software is perfect for catching that outsourcer who sends you a blog post that they already sold to someone else or even stole directly from another website.
This 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.
Grammarly Bonus Tool – Vocabulary Enhancement
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.
How Does Grammarly Work?
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.
My preferred way to use Grammarly is the stand alone application. This application only works when you are connected to the Internet, but I prefer it to using a 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 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.
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.
The plugin 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. Some of the errors Grammarly catches can only be corrected with the lightbox. 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 lightbox. 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 lightbox interface before you click “publish” on your blog post. Not every mistake shows up in the inline editor.
There is not a Grammarly plugin for 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.
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.”
Are You English or Canadian?
Right now Grammarly is set to American English. I found many complaints from British and Canadian reviewers who failed to notice that Grammarly doesn't respect their spelling system right now. Their “language” will surely be added as the software improves. Currently, there is no option to choose your language or dialect within the Grammarly interface.
If you are British or a Canadian who prefers colour to color, then you might find Grammarly lacking in its current iteration.
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 like you do. If you are a professional writer, blogger, article writer or ghost writer 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.
Grammarly Bonus – Advanced Techniques
I just used Grammarly to help me with a unique project. I had a script written in Word that I needed to transfer to PowerPoint. I needed to put one sentence on each slide. When copying directly, I had to keep scraping the formatting so that the text would be in the correct PowerPoint font and size. It was annoying to constantly copy and paste this way. I copied the document into Grammarly and from there into PowerPoint one line at a time.
It cut off about 70% of the time from the little project. Grammarly defaults to the formatting of whatever document you are pasting into. This is how you can edit something and paste it back into the document, and most (but not all) of the formatting remains the same. Anything universal will still be there, but changes to individual sentences or phrases will be lost. Words that were bold will lose that effect when you use Grammarly.
Final Review of Grammarly – Is it Worth the Money?
One of my biggest problems is when I get tired my spelling slips. My fingers start hitting the wrong key or in the wrong order and these little mistakes can add up. I don't notice them because I told my fingers the correct spelling. The mistake is made further down the line in my body, and I'm already thinking of the next words.
Grammarly is great at catching these types of mistakes and increases my workflow efficiency and speed. Grammarly costs more than $100 a year, and that is no joke to your average consumer. The free version is more than adequate for many people, but if you generate income from writing, then the upgrade is worth every penny.
Grammarly saves me time. That alone makes the software a must-buy. The faster I write the more money I make or time I can spend with my family. I only add one piece of software to my workflow every year. Don't expect a glowing review of any other writing tools in the next twelve months. Very rarely do I find a tool that I'm willing to test, let alone use or write about. I did recently grab Hemingway on sale, but it's not part of my workflow yet. I may play with it more in a little while, but for now, Grammarly is meeting my needs.
Grammarly has led to more jobs and more praise for several of my clients and publishers. They don't know I'm using the tool; they just think my writing suddenly improved. I'm more than happy to take credit 😉
If you found my Grammarly review useful, please click the link below to grab the free edition.