3 Reasons You Should be Using Grammarly

 
If you read our blog on self-editing tips last week, you might have noticed a quick mention of Grammarly, the web-based editing and grammar tool. If you didn’t read that article, you can find it here.
Today, I’m going to look a little bit closer at Grammarly. It’s important for authors of all stripes to know as much as they can about the tools they have available to them. In that spirit, let’s consider what Grammarly has to offer authors.
Rather than tease you with my three reasons you should use Grammarly, let’s get those out of the way first.

3 Reasons to Use Grammarly

  1. Grammarly is free and can provide online and file based grammar and spelling checks
  2. Grammarly can switch between checking for American English and British English
  3. Grammarly serves as an extra set of “eyes” on the document

Of course, you may find other reasons to use Grammarly, and I have to point out that I’m looking only at the free version. Numerous reviewers across the web have reviewed the paid versions, so I suggest checking around Google for those articles. But coming from the perspective of a self-published author, looking to create a high-quality book without investing a ton of money and time into professional editors, Grammarly’s free offering is a great tool to examine.

From the onset, we all have to agree the best material you can produce will be well written and clean of spelling and grammatical errors. As the content’s creator, writing will fall on you. Spelling and grammar you can and should get all the assistance you can with reviewing and polishing. Because these areas are not open to as much creativity, using software like Grammarly is perfect for helping ensure your book is as perfect as it can be.

How Does Grammarly Help?

When I typed the line above the first time, I missed the space bar between “Does” and “Grammarly.” Here’s what I saw when I put the cursor over the erroneous text:

This pop up is the basic menu, offering a correction (or multiple corrections if applicable), the opportunity to add the word to Grammarly’s dictionary (great for character names or other proper nouns), you can ignore the error, and a “See more” option to open the full Grammarly editor:
The in-browser editor is a pop out window that will be familiar to anyone comfortable with MS Word’s track changes function. Grammarly shows the text you’ve written in the left column and provides in-line editing and grammar suggestions in the right column. This pop out can always be viewed from a “Grammarly dot” located lower right of the text box you’re working in:
The red number represents the corrections Grammarly has found through the free tool. The yellow number are “premium” corrections you can only see if you subscribe to their paid services. Clicking on either icon opens the pop out for reviewing the corrections, but the premium corrections are not visible unless you have a paid account.
You might notice that I’m looking at using Grammarly in a browser (Firefox in this case) to edit a web document (a WordPress blog). Let me be completely clear: for an author or anyone creating content for a book, the most common web-based writing tool is going to be Googles Docs, and Grammarly does not currently function with Google Docs. That alone is a huge negative for Grammarly, though it does not completely invalidate the tool.
They dodge the issue with a “home” page accessible either through your Grammarly account on their website (https://app.grammarly.com/) or through a downloadable application.
We’ll touch on the uses for the web centered editing tools a bit more later. The piece that will be most useful for an author will be the interaction between Grammarly and the actual content file you’ve created. This is a bright point for Grammarly. Whether you stick to the web tool or use the application, the layout you will be working in is the same.

That’s the home screen. Clean, simple, and very similar to the MS Word screen most of you will be familiar with. This design (left column for navigation, a majority of the screen for content) is common for writing applications, and Grammarly is set up so that you could write directly into the application. I doubt many writers will go that route, but it is an option. More useful is the “Import” function, allowing you to take a .docx file and plug it into Grammarly.
This may seem redundant, as Word already has a potent spelling and grammar checker. There is value in redundancy! Grammarly will catch some errors Word might miss while offering advice about questionable word usage or grammar errors Word often misses. Think of this just like giving your manuscript to multiple editors or reviewers for feedback. Each reviewer will catch different problems and provide different feedback. If you’ve relied on MS Word’s spell checker for years, I highly recommend complimenting that tool with Grammarly. Not because one is better than the other, but because getting multiple looks at your manuscript is always beneficial.

Dissecting Grammarly

Once you have an account and either download the app or access the home screen in your browser, you’ll notice a document is already present. This “Demo Document” is a great feature Grammarly uses to highlight the functionality of the tool.

The document has a number of errors built in, alongside the Grammarly corrections. You’ll see the “Upgrade” option here as well, along with “Advanced Issues” that can only be viewed through the paid service. Sticking to the free tool, Grammarly identifies spelling, grammar, and usage issues in the document and offers suggested corrections. Most of the spelling and punctuation errors are ones MS Word can handle, but the usage and word choice tools set Grammarly apart. Look at this instance a little deeper in the Demo Document:

Grammarly identifies the word “vary” as potentially being misused in the context of the sentence. When I click on the “expand” marker for this correction, I see an explanation of why they’ve marked this word, as well as their suggested replacement. Clicking “More” also gives helpful examples of confused or misused words:

And of course, you have the option to “Ignore” the flag and keep the text as is. This is helpful if you’ve used the word in question for a creative or design reason that Grammarly won’t be able to identify.
Once you’ve run through all the suggested changes, Grammarly has an export option so the document can be exported to your computer. If you imported a .docx file, the export will match that. If you wrote directly in Grammarly, the export will be a .txt file, so be aware of that. For most, a .txt file will not be ideal, so you would have to copy and paste the results into Word.
As a final note on the way Grammarly works, I’d like to suggest this review from Grammarist. In it, the authors run a handful of tests by inserting grammatical and spelling errors into Grammarly and reviewing the results. They are fairly thorough, if not a bit more critical than need be, in looking at the ways Grammarly handles tricky grammar situations. It is a very informative read and might help give perspective on the uses of this software.

Why Grammarly?

First, allow me to put forth my three reasons for using Grammarly again:

  • Grammarly is free and can provide online and file based grammar and spelling checks
  • Grammarly can switch between checking for American English and British English
  • Grammarly serves as an extra set of “eyes” on the document

For myself, I cannot point to a single compelling reason to say “you absolutely should use Grammarly.” I will say that the software’s free version can be helpful, and as it is free, I see no reason not to give it a try. But it remains possible that you will not find Grammarly a key tool in their writing toolbox. If anything, I would look at it as a helpful supplement to your normal spell checking.
For your manuscript, I cannot say emphatically enough how important it is to have other humans review the content. A spelling and grammar tool like Grammarly is good for catching a lot, but without actual human eyes on the document, you cannot hope to have the quality reviewing a manuscript deserves. So use all software with the knowledge that real people reading and reviewing your work are still invaluable.
Let’s call Grammarly a decent add-on for content editing and particularly nice for catching some misused words, but not the end all of the grammar editing tools. With that in mind, I’d like to point out a one other use that may not be obvious but are still incredibly useful.
Self-publishing is about more than just writing a book and uploading the file. That is the literal act of self-publishing. Maintaining a self-published book and finding success is an ongoing and ever changing process, one that involves a great deal of writing outside the book itself. Think about the blog posts, social media posts, emails, press releases, website copy, and blurbs on advertising sites you have to write. Here is where Grammarly can shine.
Because Grammarly has a browser plug in, you can add the tool to your web browser and voila! You have a grammar and spelling tool for all your online writing. This is particularly helpful for blogging if you write directly into WordPress (or your blogging software of choice). While most software will have spell check, they will not have the depth Grammarly offers. Facebook and Twitter also work with Grammarly. While a spelling error here and there on social media isn’t likely to cost you any readers, maintaining a level of professionalism with correct spelling and grammar is easy with the Grammarly plug in.
I would strongly recommend any of author who does a lot of writing through a browser for their marketing efforts really consider Grammarly. And for those authors who shy away from hiring an editor, Grammarly is a good second check for spelling and grammar in your manuscript. I don’t advise going without some amount of human editing, but if you make the choice to completely eschew an editor, Grammarly is the alternative I would lean toward.
On a final note, I’m always happy to hear from our readers about the software and tools they use when writing and editing, so if anyone has something they are using and wants to give it a shout out, please do so in the comments!

14 thoughts on “3 Reasons You Should be Using Grammarly”

  1. I ordered and paid for the book, “The Deception of the Century”, by Theodor Kolberg, and you people have cheated me by your own DECEPTION! You say I never ordered it. You are a bunch of lying DECEIVERS!!!!

  2. GRAMERLY was very useful when I edited my PhD Thesis entitled RELIGION AND PEACEMAKING IN SIERRA LEONE, which is now published!

  3. Hi Mary,
    I should have touched on this more in the blog because the site is a little tricky for a new user. You have to start by clicking the “Get Grammarly for [your browser]” button. That starts the account creation. They’ll ask if you want to start a paid plan, but you can opt out and go with the free account while setting up.

  4. I use Grammarly all the time and love it, but it has one gigantic omission – Google Docs.
    Yes, I understand that I can copy the text from the doc and paste it into the Grammarly editor, but this is not foolproof, stripping much of my formatting.
    And I can start with the editor, but this should not be unnecessary given that there is a plugin for Outlook, MS Office, the Chrome browser – just about everything except Google docs. J

  5. Hi John,
    The lack of Google Docs is a huge omission – though I know Grammarly acknowledges this so I have to hope they’re looking to add Google Docs integration eventually.
    But you’re absolutely right, the inability to use Grammarly in a Google doc major stumbling block.

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