Grammarly Product Review – Write Better

  • Product: Grammarly
  • Price: Varies by subscription
  • Where to Buy: Grammarly.com
  • Features: Basic spellcheck to plagiarism detection
  • My Rating: 4.5 out 5

My morning routine is pretty simple. I get up and start a pot of coffee. With mug in hand, I catch up on news headlines and scroll through my Facebook news feed. Usually, within five minutes, I’ve found at least one grammar error either in a national news article or a Facebook post. While some of these errors are by choice—I like to slip in a “ya’ll” into my writing from time to time—most of the mistakes aren’t stylistic choices. 

I don’t consider myself an expert on grammar. You may find an error or two in my posts. I split my infinitives and use the wrong subject-verb agreement. I’ll re-write a sentence ten times to avoid having to figure out which tense of lay, lie, laid I need to use. I rely on grammar and spell check as I write and publish online. Which brings us to my Grammarly product review.

My Overview

Because I know I am prone to writing mistakes, I went on a search for a robust spelling and grammar checker than the features built into Microsoft Word and other word processing programs. The built-in spelling and grammar checker will catch most things, but don’t go beyond the basics. Even after adjusting the settings, I still felt like the word processing programs weren’t offering the level of support I wanted. I needed something better. That’s when I found Grammarly.

Grammarly has several options available in their free web-based checker and offers a more comprehensive checker through a paid monthly subscription. The free version performs basic spelling and grammar checks directly through the Grammarly.com site or a browser extension. The free checker catches some of the more common errors other grammar and spelling checkers miss. You can also access the Grammarly Handbook, Facebook community, Twitter account, and blog.

Why I Opted for a Paid Subscription

You may not consider yourself a writer or a publisher, and feel the free service is sufficient for your needs. However, if you are posting on social media, hosting a blog, writing emails and reports for your job, or even hosting a podcast where you follow a script, you are a writer and a publisher. In our content-rich society, we are writing more and making it public more often than at any other time in history.

If you are regularly writing and publishing content, consider the paid premium service. You can pay by the month, or you can save money by using the annual billing option. The Premium service performs over 400 checks and allows you to use Grammarly almost anywhere you type a word. Grammarly Premium performs advanced checks for context and structure in addition to giving you vocabulary suggestions. (For example, it is telling me “checks” in the previous sentence is repetitive and suggests I use “tests” instead.) A premium subscription also checks over 16 million web pages to detect plagiarism.

Grammarly Premium has an add-in for Microsoft Office for Windows, a Grammarly keyboard for iOS and Android, and offers a browser extension for several popular browsers. Also, it works on several popular websites for posts and comments. Your subscription works across multiple devices, too making it easy to continue writing near error-free content no matter where you are. 

For those into online badges, rewards, and stats, Grammarly also sends a personalized weekly email with fun, yet informative stat. The email lists your top three errors and links to more information on how to fix those errors. There are badges for consecutive weeks of use, and the email also tells you how you stack up to other Grammarly users regarding productivity and accuracy.

Why 4.5 of 5?

My Grammarly product review wouldn’t be complete without mentioning a few minor annoyances. Honestly, these issues are nothing more than my pet peeves, but I still felt as if they are worth adding. For context, I’m a Premium subscriber and use Windows PCs almost exclusively. I use Grammarly when writing content for my website and for writing fiction. I also use my subscription at my “day job” to write emails and reports. Here’s what bugs me:

  1. In Word, Grammarly uses a flyout box to the right of the screen. You can resize it, but it still takes up screen space. You can toggle it on and off, but I like to see the errors as I type.
  2. In Outlook, when replying to an email, you have to open the composer in a new window—so the flyout box can open. You still have to open the composer in a new window even if you toggle off the flyout box.
  3. Grammarly scans the entire document or email string for errors. While you may not be proofreading other people’s work, Grammarly does. I would love to see a feature that lets you select what portion of a document to scan. Also, it flags a mistake for not having a comma after the year in the header information of an email. For example, the header will say “January 1, 2018 5:00” and Grammarly knows that in a sentence there should be a comma after the eight so, it flags it as an error.
  4. Closing out Word seems to take a few seconds longer when Grammarly is enabled. 

Small annoyances aside, of course, Grammarly isn’t perfect. As with any spellcheck and grammar program, there are instances where a correctly spelled word that has been misused will go unflagged. Still, Grammarly is one of the best grammar and spelling checkers I’ve used. I can see a long, long relationship with Grammarly. Whether you use the free version to catch critical errors or you upgrade to the Premium version, your readers will be able to see the difference in your work!

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List of Common Grammar Errors – Spellcheck Isn’t Your Friend

You’ve started writing. You might even have a blog or are posting regularly on social media about your work. Once you get the words on the page, then comes editing. I’m not here to invoke bad memories of standing at the chalkboard trying to diagram a sentence. I would like to over a short list of common grammar errors along with some usage notes.

Most of us depend on the built-in spelling and grammar checks to catch our mistakes, but the items below can be easily overlooked by most programs. Before we dive into the list, here’s something to keep in mind: You don’t have to be 100% grammatically correct all the time, but avoiding common, fundamental errors can make your writing more professional.

Homophones 

For my list of common grammar errors, let’s start with words that sound the same when spoken, but have different meanings or uses depending on the spelling.

  1. They’re-Their-There—This one is guaranteed to make any editor cringe. Say all three out loud. Hear how similar they are? No wonder these three words are so often and easily confused in writing. Here’s the breakdown:
    • They’re: This is the contraction of “they are.” Example: They’re going to sell out of the strawberry pie before we place our order.
    • Their: This indicates ownership. Example: I hope those people enjoy their pie.
    • There: This indicates a place or location. Example: I’ll sit over there closer to the pie.
  2. Your-You’re—Again, try saying the two words out loud. No real difference is there? Here’s what happens when you write:
    • Your: This indicates ownership. Example: Give me your pie since I didn’t get any.
    • You’re: This is the contraction of “you are.” Example: You’re going to buy a whole pie for me.
  3. To-Too-Two—These three words sound the same when spoken. While most people use “two” correctly, the other two words can be a little tricky. Here’s how to use them in writing:
    • To: This is a preposition, and it has a lot of jobs. I can indicate motion, identify a person or thing affected, identify a relationship, or as an infinitive. Example: He is going to the store.
    • Too: This means also or in addition. Example: She is going to the store too.
    • Two: This is a number. Again, the easiest of the three, but still worth mentioning. Example: The two kids are at the store.
  4. Then-Than—While not true homophones, they are frequently misused. I can only imagine these two words get misused due to the similar spelling.
    • Then:  This indicates an event in time or series of actions. Example: She waited ten minutes, then went home.
    • Than: This is used to compare or contrast. Example: She is taller than her brother.

Usage Pitfalls

Next up on my list of common grammar errors are words that may sound right, but aren’t depending on usage.

  1. I-Me: Most of the time, people will use “I” and “me” almost interchangeably. We can usually understand that something like “Me want a cookie” is incorrect, but not understand why something like “Larry took Sara and I to the concert” is incorrect. If the second subject throws you off, try reading the sentence without it: Larry took I to the concert.
    • I: We use “I” when the “I” of your sentence is doing the action or feeling the feeling. Example: Sara and I went to a concert with Larry.
    • Me: We use “me” when the “me” is the object of the action. Example: Larry took Sara and me to the concert.
  2. Who-Whom-Whose-Who’s: Which word you use here also depends on usage. My examples below focus on usage in questions, but these words can also be used in statements. The same basic usage rules apply to statements as well.
    • Who: Usually used as a subject pronoun. Think of it as replacing he or she in sentences where we are asking or talking about the person taking action. Example: Who let the dogs out? (Bonus points if you sang that and barked afterward.)
    • Whom: Usually used as the object pronoun. Think of it as replacing him or her in sentences where we are asking or talking about the person that had the action done to them. Example: Whom did she blame for letting the dogs out?
    • Whose: This indicates ownership. Example: Whose dogs did she let out?
    • Who’s: This is a contraction for “who is” and sometimes “who has.” Example: Who’s going to let the dogs out?

My Pet Peeves

The last group on my list of common grammar errors fall into a particular category called: My Pet Peeves. These are the things that make me cringe when I see them. The worst part is that I’m guilty of making these errors all the time! I always go back over anything I’ve written and look for these three things. 

  1. Who-That: To be fair, there is a lot of debate over usage for these two words. For the most part, “that” can replace “who” in most situations and not get you called out by overzealous grammar students. Still, here are the quick and dirty rules:
    • Who: This generally refers to a person and as mentioned above is the subject pronoun. Example: I didn’t see the girl who wore the coat. Now try reading the sentence with “that” replacing “who.” Example:  I didn’t see the girl that wore the red coat. Still makes sense, and isn’t technically wrong per se.
    • That: This always refers to things or objects. Example: Your coat isn’t like that red coat we saw at the store. (Note here that you can’t swap “that” and “who.”)
    • That: One more quick call out on using “that” before we move on. The word “that” is often a filler word. You don’t need it in most sentences. Do a document search for “that” and read your sentence without “that.” If it makes sense without “that,” then you can delete it.
  2. Less-Fewer: This is a case where we’ve misused something so much it sounds right to most of us. Still, there are distinctions between these two words. The most basic usage rule is:
    • Less: This is used for things that can’t be counted. Example: You can drink less beer.
    • Fewer: This is used for things that you can count. Example: You can buy fewer cans of beer.
  3. Em Dash-Ellipsis: Ok, this one is about the punctuation marks and not words. 
    • Em Dash: This is what you get when you type two dashes and keep typing. Like this: “type—type.” The em dash is used to show an interruption to the thought. There is some debate around formatting when using the em dash. Some say there should be a space before and after; some say the spaces are not needed. Personally, I skip the spaces. Example: Sara—remind me to tell you about her red coat—went to the concert with me.
    • Ellipsis: this is what you get when you type three periods together like this: “type…” Ellipsis is used to show a thought trails off, unfinished. This is also used to indicate that something has been left out in a quote. Example: Sara wore her red coat to…

The list of common grammar errors above can help you catch mistakes your spelling and grammar check may not find for you. Take the time to search your document for these words and punctuation marks to make sure you’ve used them correctly. Eliminating these common errors will make anything you write look and sound more professional.