In the latest of our Tool Reviews The Big Ideas Machine’s James Kaye reviews the tool Grammarly
Tool name and maker
Grammarly by Grammarly Inc.
What this tool does
Grammarly proofreads emails and documents for a wide variety of possible errors including grammar, spelling, punctuation, context and even plagiarism.
Price as reviewed
There are different tiers including free personal, personal premium, business and education. The premium and business are similarly priced at around $120 a year per user. There are monthly plans, but they are more expensive than paying for the entire year upfront.
We’ve been using Grammarly for a couple of years and its an essential part of our daily work. Pretty much all the copy we generate is run through the tool, and it even has a plugin for Chrome and Safari that checks our emails as we use Gmail for work.
How it performs
Grammarly is an indispensable part of our daily workflow. For any job based on creating copy, a tool like this is like having a proofreader looking over your shoulder. Grammarly is just there and working away in the background. Whether it's checking emails or blog posts, the tool works seamlessly. In fact, it has just corrected three words as I've been typing this!
There's a tremendous amount to like about Grammarly
- It's an indispensable tool for PR agencies. It can spot errors and make suggestions to copy that goes beyond mere spelling. This includes punctuation, grammar and style (it loves to point out when you're writing in the passive voice). Grammarly will rewrite split infinitives and also make alternative suggestions to words that you have used too many times. It suggests a load of things that would not even occur to me
- Grammarly has a native Mac and Desktop app in case you don't want to do your editing in the browser
- It works in Microsoft Word (but only on PC)
- You can add words to the personal dictionary, so it learns over time like any other spell checker
- You can upload documents into the online tool, check and correct and then download again while retaining all the original formatting
- Each piece of copy you are editing gets a score out of 100. As you make corrections, this gets higher. You can also click on the score to see a detailed report
- The Chrome browser plug-in works seamlessly with web-based email like Gmail as well as Wordpress so it can correct copy in most places that you're writing it
- It works in British English as well as American, Canadian, or Australian rules
- It's cloud-based so continually improving over time
- The premium version even lets you send the text to a real human proofreader
- The commercial/business version consolidates accounts under a single licence and billing structure. It even produces a fancy report to show you how many words it has checked over a period of time. It doesn't mean much but can feel really satisfying!
There isn't much to dislike about Grammarly. Any issues are minor and do not detract from its overall value as a PR tool. Some of the things I would improve are:
- The most glaring omission is that it does not work with Google Docs which can be a pain. This means that you have to download the doc, upload it to Grammarly and download it again. If you cut and paste the text, it will lose its formatting. I have heard it is trialling Grammarly with Google Docs which will slot the final missing piece of the puzzle into place
- Doesn't work with MS Word on Mac, so you have to upload documents
- It doesn't pick up everything. I smugly typed in the famous Star Trek split infinitive 'to boldly go where no man has gone before', and it didn't pick up on it
- It doesn't always understand context very well. It may suggest alternatives to words that are contextually inappropriate or even correct a grammatical error that it perceives to be wrong when you know full well that it is not. The machine learning in Grammarly may be getting better, but it still won't pass the Turing Test just yet.
- The Chrome plug-in sometimes has a mind of its own and won't fire up or be there inside Gmail or Wordpress. I'm pleased to say this is the exception rather than the rule
- If you try to bulk change the colour of a paragraph of copy in Wordpress, then it won't change the words that are underlined in red by Grammarly until you address them. Okay, I'm really picky here, but maybe that's no bad thing.
On a final note, Grammarly isn't a replacement for good old proofreading. Grammarly catches most things, but we can't be lazy and rely on it too much.
Star rating (out of 5)
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