The layout is clean and easy to understand. I didn't need to read long instructions to know how to get started. Win.
For some reason, the copy/paste function to get the text into the program wasn't working. Not being technical, I have no idea why. Perhaps it was my browser? However, I also had the option to upload my text, or drag the text file into the program. Easy. Another win.
There are a number of levels of checking the program can go through. The default is General and is rather formal, advising me to avoid my casual use of personal pronouns and contractions. The levels also included Academic, Business, Technical, Creative, and Casual. Casual is a far more forgiving setting and even let me get away with fragmented sentences. Woot.
I can't help comparing Grammarly to Microsoft Word's grammar checker, which has become somewhat intelligent. Word picks up many foobahs, even many correctly spelt words in incorrect places. However, it didn't pick up a mistake I'd made in a previous post. I'd written: World War Z, staring Brad Pitt. Grammarly picked up 'staring' and gave me a few suggestions to replace it, with 'starring' at the top of the list. Impressive. After a quick test, Grammarly is also better at picking up comma placement mistakes than Word.
Is Grammarly infallible? No. It gave me a few suggestions that were incorrect. For example, I'd written in this post: Weigh it, understand where it's coming from… and Grammarly tried to tell me the pronoun 'it' doesn't agree with the verb 'understand'. It took me a while to work out that Grammarly thought I was saying something like, 'It understand where it's coming from'. Grammarly failed to read my sentence properly.
Grammarly will also pick up some things it's simply programmed to pick up. For example, I used 'your' in a sentence and Grammarly suggested I may need to change it to 'you're'. This lack of intelligence became a bit of a time waster as I had to sort through them all.
- I think I'd like to see Grammarly use more often an example of my incorrect sentences written correctly. It does this only sometimes.
- I'd also like an option to adjust what Grammarly looks for, rather than having to use their premade settings. For example, I'd like it to ignore my fragmented sentences, but pick up passive voice. While there is an ignore button, it will only ignore each instance of a 'mistake' it's picked up. If I want to ignore every instance of that same mistake, I have to use a dropdown list which is an extra click. This seems a little silly when there's plenty of room for an 'ignore all' button next to the 'ignore' button. Time is short and I don't want to be wasting it sorting through all the rules.
- Grammarly didn't recognise that I had two different spellings of the word 'colour' in the same paragraph. I used both the American spelling and the British, so I think I'd also like to see a setting added which specifies which English you want checked.
From Grammarly: Grammarly is best used as a "second set of eyes" for your writing as opposed to a replacement for a professional proofreader. I'd agree with that assessment.
So overall, are automated online proofreading tools worth it?
- I might have some skill with editing other people's work, but I'm often blind to my own mistakes, so that 'second set of eyes' is kinda handy.
- They are mighty expensive for an online service but cheaper than a professional editor. Note, Grammarly is cheaper than AutoCrit.
- They can be used as a learning tool for someone who doesn't feel confident with all those tricksy grammar rules. If this is done, then I'd advise using an official grammar guide along with the online tool, just to make sure those automated responses are correct.
- As indicated in my previous point, they do take up a lot of extra time because of the need to sort through all the suggestions which aren't always correct.
- It comes down to your individual needs. I think they are worth it if you're writing lots of articles regularly, or pieces like query letters where correct grammar is essential.