Anyone Using Grammarly?

David Trammel's picture

I must say the online writer's forums that let you post your stories have changed since I used them a decade ago. Now the moderators who used to just check to see that you hadn't broken one of the taboos of the forum rules, are now full-on editors checking punctuation, grammar, compound sentence structure. The whole works. The things that you typically expect from paid publishers, the volunteer staff on these forums are doing.

Now I have a love/hate relationship with people who offer suggestions on my stories. On the one hand, I recognize that my grammatical skills are not of the highest quality. Because of that, I haven't worried too much about the rules of commas and periods. And I have developed a personal style in the way I tell stories. The language that I speak with. I've had enough people read a sample or a short story of mine at my request, who proceed to tell me exactly how I've gone wrong and how THEY would do it.

(Note: I know most of the volunteers are saying "We're not editors, we just want your story to be the best it can be!" They are making all of the suggestions that editors I've dealt with did. And since they are the gatekeepers to allowing your story onto their site, you have to address the issues they raise.

On the other hand, I recognize that I definitely have a deficiency in the basics. What I might consider style (I am very bad on too many compound sentences) is sometimes just sloppiness. So getting off my high horse and re-learning those basic rules, and applying them correctly is in my best interest. I can't speak of the business of publishing now, but at the beginning of my writing, publishers bought my short stories outright, then had their editors change them to suit their needs without my input. For me, the important thing is the idea behind the story and not the minor issues.

This brings me back to my question. Has anyone used, or is using the writing software "Grammarly"?

My first observations are the software does save you a lot of time and headache trying to look up things the editor highlights. Especially hyphens and errors where the word is correctly spelled but the wrong word. I know sometimes it seems like no matter how many times I review a story, there's one thing I miss.

My second observation is that it's pricey. It's $144 a year as a monthly service. Not a purchased program. I know that's the way things are headed, but I don't like it.

My third observation is they hook you in with all the bells for your first story edit, then remove their suggestions for one of the biggest problems writers have, commas and compound sentences.

My fourth observation is that the free version, once downloaded is always on in the background, correcting your every comment or post by default. I'm not sure I like a program to be that much of a nanny or to be accessing every keystroke I do. I'm naturally paranoid about the unforeseen problems associated with software and this just screams, "Hack me!"

So, writers, have you tried this software and what are your thoughts?

Speaking as an ex-pro copy editor and content editor who needs work pronto, pard’ner, I say pay me, not a robot. But I cost more than the robot so maybe not, eh?

Second, I can’t think of a better way to kill the sweet buzz of writers’ joy and dam the creative flow of composition than to have an auto-sneech nagging you about commas and n-dashes at every keystroke. That is a BUG, not a feature.

Third, the bait-and-switch technique speaks very ill of the egregore of the company that created this dubious product. What else are they going to try to hook you on and sell you before they pull the rug out from under you in the next pay cycle?

Fourth, the software’s capacity to signal when a word is out of place or a homonym is incorrectly used (there – their – they’re) is a truly valuable asset.

Fifth, if it can also halt the modern microbrainsoft degeneracy of BAD APOSTROPHES [Its (possessive), It’s (contraction for It is), D’ont (Really, y’all? Do get a clue.)] and force people to change “The fruit was for my wife and I” to the OBJECTIVE CASE USAGE of “The fruit was for my wife and ME” according to the PROPER RULES for pronouns following a preposition, then it is a blessed miracle worker that needs to be bowed down to and worshipped with incense, rare spices, electrum dust, ripe mangoes, and pomegranates bursting with sweetness served on a golden platter.

If it imposes a graduated scale of punishment for mixing up the subjective and objective cases, from small fines to larger fines and on up to a three-year prison sentence where convicts are required to read, recite, and write, in chalk, on slates, several thousand correctly parsed and diagrammed sentences per day, illustrating the rule they repeatedly and criminally abrogated, under threat of tazer jolt for failure, until said cases are gouged like mini-canyons into their brains by sheer force of PTSD, then so much the better. Maybe people will then learn to HEAR WHAT THEY ARE SAYING. “The fruit is for I. And Mary.” Oh, is it really? Well, you better tell ‘me, myself and I’ to run away quickly before they all wind up together in Grammar Jail with carpal tunnel of both wrists and the tongue.

Sixth, if a small cohort of fellow writers and you were to pool your funds and purchase a copy to install on the Clubhouse Computer, so that you could each take turns running your nearly-finished stories through the robot’s steel-toothed grammar gauntlet, then this program might actually earn its salt over the course of a year.

[NOT ‘it’s’ salt, because ‘it’s’ means ‘it is’ and the POSSESSIVE FORM needs no apostrophe.
Do you go around writing hi’s or her’s? Not yet, but now that I have mentioned the possibility of being wrong in a brand new way, in all likelihood this evil novelty will catch on, become wildly popular, and proliferate like peppergrass and jimsonweed in Cowtown. So the Grammarly program will have to be upgraded two years hence and will cost a whole lot more because it now includes an opt-out feature that automatically signs you up with Pooter & Botts, Legal Language Representation firm, at a small recurring fee.]

Last, if it has a single easy-to-wield widget or button you can press to make your story follow specific House Rules about serial commas and suchlike arbitrary trash, then it has potential to rule the world. It could commandeer your house, kick you out on the street, infiltrate the electrical grid, and implement its possessive powers with ruthless force and perfect impunity.

Probably, it’s too dangerous to buy.

So, save your money; you just might save the world, too. A twofer!

[Go ahead, Robot: make my day. Tell me ‘twofer’ is not a real word. It’s your call. See what happens to you.]

Ichabod ‘Itsy’ the Enforcer

Ken's picture

The grammar Nazis are automated apparently. Since 3rd grade I've distrusted the grammar Nazis and the whole concept of 'The King's English'. Reread your Chaucer. If you think there is only one way to spell a word, you are sorely lacking in imagination! (and foniks!)

Grammarly has a lot of ads all over the net. I tend to assume something advertised that heavily probably doesn't sell itself well on its own merits. I also dislike the idea of a machine altering my writing to what it thinks I want. I want to write like myself, not like a grammar-editing program, even if that means a few more errors.

I've also experienced too many howlingly-hilarious voice dictation software errors, and seen too many autocorrect errors, and spellcheck issues in people's fanfiction to put up with more of it than I absolutely have to.

David Trammel's picture

Ok, let's walk through how the Grammarly website works. And show you a workaround.

First, you have to download it to your pc. You'll get an icon on your desktop that when clicked, opens the website in a browser tab. You have to log in to use it. I chose to log in with Google (don't throw stones please). You can then pick the option to cut and paste a new document.

Once you do, you will then have the option to set the style and level of expertise you wish the document reviewed at. Technical writing is held to a higher level than storytelling since story readers expect a bit of flourish and style. You'll set the goals like this:

I set mine at a bit tighter level than basic storytelling right now. I should try one story on both a "general" level and a "creative" level and see the differences.

Once you set the goals, the first thing that happens is the system gives you the general punctuation, spelling, and grammar filters you get with the free option. You'll see this:

Clicking on each of the underlined errors will bring up a more detailed explanational tab. You can then choose to use their suggestion or ignore it.

Once you have finished with the basics a new prompt appears. This is for the advanced suggestions that you have to pay to upgrade to premium to access. Or do you?

Now if you do a little experimenting, on the highlighted errors, you can often correct them. When you do, the advance list will update itself. Correct the punctuation in a compound sentence, and the number will drop one. Re-phrase a wordy sentence, it drops that category too. You won't get them all gone. Some of their advanced suggestions no doubt conform to their algorithm and Grammarly-style playbook but do you need to correct those? Most likely not.

All in all for the free version of the software seems to me to be a useful addition to a writer's toolbox.