If you are like me, you have probably seen advertisements for Grammarly everywhere you turn. I saw them on almost every webpage and before every YouTube video that I tried to watch. So, I decided to buy it for a month and see what all the hype was about.

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After seeing all the adds for Grammarly everywhere, I thought I would give it a try. So, I went right ahead and bought a one-month subscription to it without even trying the unpaid version. I thought that since I had this blog, a few papers and a few school applications to write that I would be using it enough to decide if it was worth keeping. Read the detailed review below or skip right to the end to get the TL;DR and find out if Grammarly is worth buying.

When you have a Grammarly account, you can use the web app (chrome extension in my case), mobile phone apps, and IOS apps as well. I used mostly the web app for my review. I did, briefly, download the IOS app onto my computer. However, I did not really use it because it required me to copy and paste everything I wrote into the program instead of automatically integrating with my other IOS apps.

The Web App

Okay, not going to lie I actually appreciate the web app very much. If you get the chrome extension, it automatically syncs in with many websites such as WordPress, Gmail, Facebook and Twitter. This allows you to check your spelling and grammar as you write on all of these platforms. However, my one criticism of the app itself is that it is not yet compatible with Google Drive! This is a problem for me because all of my notes and assignments were kept in Google drive so that I could access them anywhere.

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Clicking on the Grammarly button in your toolbar brings you to the full version of the web app. Now, this is where you can copy and paste the text from incompatible websites (ahem, Google Docs) and have Grammarly check those documents too. The good thing about this is, although the formatting disappears visually while using this app, it is actually still there if you copy and paste the new version back into your Google Docs.

The Critical Fixes

From my understanding, the “Critical Fixes” are underlined in red. These are things like spelling errors, capitalization errors, and punctuation errors. If I understand this correctly, all of these features are included in the free version of Grammarly. For the purposes of this review, I am going to show you how it appears to edit the paragraph I wrote above in the Grammarly app. Although, it is integrated quite nicely into WordPress itself.

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So, ignoring the yellow underlined errors for a minute let’s just talk about Grammarly’s fundamental “Critical Errors.” As you can see, all of the red errors were significant errors such as spelling mistakes or confused words.

In this form, Grammarly is basically a more powerful version of the regular spell check built into any of your internet browsers or writing programs. In general, I found that Grammarly was better able to recognize names and not continually prompt me to change the spelling. For example, my name is HALI, and Microsoft Word always wants me to change my name to HAIL. Grammarly did not do this.

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Also, I find Grammarly to be faster to use than other spell check tools as you can correct your mistakes in one or two clicks. When you go to correct the error, Grammarly also explains why they think something is wrong which will hopefully help you not to make the mistakes in the future. Further, if you want to ignore a particular correction, you can do so here.

Advanced Fixes

“Advanced Fixes” are all the fixes that Grammarly suggests beyond basic spelling and punctuation. They can be as simple as comma errors, to verb tense mistakes, or pointing out passive voice.

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Looking closer at this paragraph we can see what kind of errors Grammarly will point out to you. It wants me to remove the word “actually” because it doesn’t really add any information to the sentence. Another common mistake for me is forgetting to add commas when I need them. I also have a terrible habit of using passive voice and unclear antecedents  Although these issues can be easily found if you thoroughly proofread your work, I find that this app helps me to speed up that process exponentially.

Advanced Fixes: Hits and Misses

However, like anything else, this service is not perfect.

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One of the things that Grammarly can do is flag words that are often overused in writing and make suggestions to diversify your writing. Sometimes, this feature is beneficial. Other times, like this one from my school paper above, the app suggests words that do not fit the context. Now that I’m looking at it again, a better word to flag would have been “Unfortunately” as I used it twice in this paragraph.

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The app can also see the words that you personally use the most frequently and suggest you change them. However, I found this feature to not be beneficial because it kept flagging words key to the topic I was discussing. For example, in this paper, I was writing about gender discrimination in the Indian Act. It flagged the word “She” and “Status” as being repeatedly used in a paper about women and Indian status. How would I replace those words? I know I use words like “however” and “unfortunately” very often so why did it not flag those words instead?

Sidebar Features

In the Grammarly app, there are four sidebar features that are supposed to help you edit your writing, or change the way they critique your writing.

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In the first option, you can change which errors you want Grammarly to be able to check for you. Although, if you are paying for the full service I am not sure why you would want to turn these features off.

You can also change the document type. I used the categories “General Academic,” “Admission Letter,” “Essay,” and “Personal Blog” under “Creative” when I tested out Grammarly. However, I did not notice any differences in the way that Grammarly made suggestions to be between these different document types. Perhaps the way I write is universal to all of these types? I am not sure.

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The next sidebar feature I would like to talk about is Grammarly’s plagiarism check.

Any student knows that avoiding plagiarism is very important. If you use another person’s ideas, even accidentally, you could be at risk of failing or facing expulsion. Unfortunately, this tool really sucks. 

First of all, the program found unoriginal text when I was already quoting and citing another article. For example, in my essay I wrote about Indian Status and gender discrimination this semester I quoted the original definition of ‘Indian’ was “any male of Indian blood reputed to belong to a band.” Grammarly identified this passage and attributed it to a different article than the one I was citing. However, because this is how the Indian Act was written initially, of course, this definition would be found in many different articles on the subject.

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I ran another plagiarism test on the paragraphs I wrote earlier in this post, and another standard problem showed up. Grammarly’s plagiarism detector does not understand the difference between a commonly used phrase and an original idea. And therefore the phrase “If you are like me, you have probably” was seen as plagiarism. In other assignments, Grammarly’s plagiarism detector also flagged the names of awards, schools, books and organizations as plagiarism.

Possibly the funniest encounter I had with the plagiarism function was when I was writing a short biography on Maria Campbell, a successful Indigenous Authour, Playwright and Elder. In my paper, I wrote “her mother died when she was young and” however it claimed plagiarism and lead me to Carol Bundy‘s Wikipedia page.. the page of a double murderer!

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The third sidebar option allowed you to turn off vocabulary enhancement. We’ve already talked about this feature so I won’t go into detail about it again.

 

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The final feature gives you an option to have your document sent away to a professional proofreader, for an extra fee. I do not know about you guys, but as an undergrad, I do not have the kind of resources to send all of my papers to professional proofreaders. So, therefore, I did not actually get to test out this feature. You would think as you are already subscribed to Grammarly they would have an option for you to use a professional proofreader included in your subscription… although obviously with a slower service speed.

TL;DR

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  • The ‘free version’ is essentially a stronger version of spell check, so you might as well download it and use it in your internet browser.
  • Advanced fixes are helpful and save you time proofreading if you are willing to spend the money.
  • Identifying repeated words and vocabulary suggestions are hit, and miss as Grammarly doesn’t know context
  • I noticed no difference between genres
  • Plagiarism detector just sucks

Is it Worth the Money?

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To make Grammarly worthwhile (to me, and possibly to other students) it should offer compatibility with Google Docs, lower the month-to-month price, offer professional proofreading to subscribers, and perhaps partner with universities/colleges to offer a student discount.

As it is now, it is not worthwhile (to me, and perhaps other students) to pay the month-to-month subscription price. And, with Christmas right around the corner, I cannot justify the cost of the lump-sum longer plans in my head.  As much as I appreciate the advanced fixes with the premium version, I would rather save my money and spend that extra hour to proofread my own work.

I might return to Grammarly in the future, if they change their program to make it more worthwhile, if I have more money to spare, or if I work in a profession that requires me to churn out formal writing on a time crunch. For now, Grammarly premium is not worth the price.