Whether you’re a writer or editor, a little help with proofing is always welcome. Most word processing programs, like Microsoft Word and WordPerfect, come with basic proofreading capabilities. But what if you had access to smarter software? Would you use it? And what if you could use it for free? We’d like to introduce you to a smart software that’s been making our lives easier since 2010. It’s called Grammarly.
An Unbiased Review of Grammarly Software
Anita Lovett has been a writer and editor for over a decade. She’s worked on hard and electronic press publications ranging from magazines and e-zines to blogs and e-books. Suffice to say, she’s been around the block. Until I started working with her, I’d never heard of Grammarly.
“I was introduced to Grammarly as a college student,” says Lovett. “I’ve always had an affinity for English, so writing and editing were natural extensions of my skillset. When I went to college for my Associates degree, I ignored most of the software offered by the college for proofreading because I could do it myself. I saw the name Grammarly all over the college’s website, but I never used it until after I started ALA.”
Slammed for time, Anita needed to expedite the process of catching basic errors like typos, incorrect verb tenses and contextual errors. She ventured back to the college, then an alumni, and took Grammarly’s Grammar Check for a spin.
“I couldn’t believe how versatile it was,” she says. “I could tell it to check any document for any venue, from academic to personal to business. I ended up on Grammarly’s website, and it wasn’t long before I opted to subscribe. Grammarly saves my team an immense amount of time. It’s literally our automated proofreader, which leaves us free to do what we do best, develop.”
The biggest problem with Grammarly is this: a lot of people don’t understand how to use it or what it offers for free, which causes a ton of biased reviews and social media comments implying or outright stating the software doesn’t work. In-house, we use Grammarly Premium across Microsoft Word and Google Chrome. Our team of writers uses Grammarly’s free grammar and plagiarism check features regularly. The software works, as long as you know how to use it.
Before I give you a crash course on how to use Grammarly, I should first explain exactly why it’s useful.
Grammarly corrects up to 10 times more mistakes than any standard word processor. It’s quick and easy to use, and it can dramatically reduce the time involved in spotting errors. Here’s what our team loves about it:
- It’s smarter than Microsoft Word. We primarily work with Microsoft Word and Publisher. We’ve seen the proofreading abilities of many word processing programs, and they’re limited. They catch the blaring mistakes that knock you between the eyes while missing the subtle, not-so-known errors. Grammarly can be setup to instantly fix over 250 types of errors, and most of them are contextual, grammatical, style and sentence structure errors that MS Word never flags.
- It can enhance clarity and meaning. Our business clients bring us their in-house and presentation documents to edit because they want to enhance their creations. They need us to ensure the polished project is specific in meaning and crystal clear. We used to spend hours bouncing documents back and forth, editing word choice and rewriting sentences. We still pass projects back and forth to enhance them, but our initial process is as simple as a few clicks thanks to Grammarly. It’s proven to be almost 90% accurate with its suggestions for clarity and meaning enhancements. We still pick and choose the best options, but we open our thesaurus far less.
- It improves writing skills. We’re still a very small company in comparison to other copywriting agencies, but we’re proud of our team because they’re some of the sharpest in the industry. We encourage all of our writers to sign-up for and use Grammarly’s free web-based software because its explanations can literally coach them. We started doing this after testing Grammarly in a tutoring setting. Anita works with college-level students who are actively attempting to improve their writing skills, some of whom know English as their second language. Grammarly gave her an assistant coach, and all of the students who’ve used the free version with her have seen a 25% to 75% improvement in their writing and English skills.
- It’s versatile. You can use Grammarly anywhere as long as you have an Internet connection. For free accounts, you’ll have to log into the website and use the online features there. You can install and start using their browser extension with a free account, but it is limited. You can also install Grammarly’s add-on for Microsoft Word, but it will not work until you have a paid subscription.
The Pros and Cons
Grammarly has many pros, most of which you can surmise from our above overview. It’s quick, it’s easy, it’s highly accurate, it’s designed and maintained by some of the world’s leading linguists, and some 4 million+ writers are using it to improve their writing. It speaks for itself when it comes to the pros. So let’s jump right to the two major cons we’ve discovered in the past year:
1. It’s Internet dependent. You can’t use this software offline, which kind of sucks. There are plenty of instances where we’re offline and would like to fire it up, but we can’t. However, this is a minor detraction in an age where we’re almost always connected to the Internet. And let’s be honest; when the Internet is down, we can just as easily rely on our own skills to accurately proof and edit, it just takes a bit longer.
2. The free version is limited. This is where so many people start screaming, “It doesn’t work!” If you download the MS Word plugin, it will not work without a paid subscription. So yes, it doesn’t work, BUT log into their website, copy and paste into the checker (or upload), and tuh-dah, it works! Free accounts can also use the browser extension, which when enabled auto checks everything you write – emails, social media statuses, comments, everything. Free accounts have basic access, which means you can’t sign up for free and expect to set Grammarly to anything beyond the “General” or “Default” algorithm.
If you don’t like the idea of paying a subscription, you’ll gripe about the software. Our team see the subscription, which can be purchased on a monthly, quarterly or annual basis, as an investment. We gain access to convenient software with the option to customize it, and it’s all clouded. We never have to worry about not having access (unless the Internet is down), and we’re always up-to-date since we don’t have to worry about whether the latest and greatest improvement downloaded.
Grammarly also runs specials and discounts. An annual subscription runs about $140. We were watching specials, and we grabbed an annual sub for $80. If you’re an astute shopper, you’ll be able to minimize the expense.
Signing Up for Grammarly
Once you sign-up for a free account, you’ll have web-based access to Grammarly’s features. You’ll also receive a few promotional emails, which is where you’ll start finding sales and discounts if you decide to upgrade to premium. Signing up is easy:
- Visit Grammarly’s website and click the big red button that says, “Get Grammarly It’s free.”
- The next page you see will ask if you’d like to add the browser extension, which you can either “Add” or “Cancel” if you see a pop-up request or select a “Yes” or “No” option at the bottom of the page.
- Regardless of whether you accept or reject the browser extension, you’ll next see a screen for creating a free account. Sign up is as simple as inputting your name, email and a password.
Learning how to use Grammarly is simple, but it can be confusing at first. A lot of reviews are unnecessarily negative for the simple fact that the user didn’t understand how to use the software. Using Grammarly for free is different from using the premium version, and this distinction must be acknowledged.
How to Use Grammarly Free
You can use Grammarly for free, but how you use it is limited. For starters, you cannot use the Microsoft Word plugin. You can download and install it, and it will say you have 5+ or 10+ errors in need of review, but you cannot turn the plugin on to see those errors without purchasing a premium subscription. Instead, you will need to use the website. Here’s how:
- Step One: Visit Grammarly.com and login.
- Step Three: Once you’ve gone to “New,” you can copy and paste your text or upload a Microsoft Word file.
Once your text has been pasted or uploaded, Grammarly will produce a critical error report. The free version shows the most serious issues within your copy accompanied by grammar explanations. As is the case with any software, it’s not always spot on; however, it does catch a lot of errors you might not see and Microsoft Word overlooks.
You can also use the Internet browser extension with the free version of Grammarly, but it is limited. It will produce a critical error report as you type emails or other text within your browser, but the advanced issues are only visible to premium subscribers.
How to Use Grammarly Premium
If you upgrade to Grammarly Premium, you will be able to enable the Microsoft Word plugin. You will no longer have to go to the website to view errors, both critical and advanced, but you’ll still have the option to use the website if you so choose. The plugin is awesome, but we are sorry to report it is – at the time of our writing this – not without bugs.
We currently use Microsoft Office 2013, and we’ve run into some interesting glitches. They just popped up within the last month. When disabled, if Grammarly is still logged in, it will disable Microsoft’s proofing completely and disable the undo function until you log out of your Grammarly account via the plugin.
We’ve also seen it interfere with showing word count, and slow the process of opening a new document and working with multiple documents (switching from one to the other with or without closing). In short, if you leave the plugin logged in 24/7, you’ll soon see some insane things happen with Word. It drove us crazy for nearly a week before we tracked the culprit down, and unfortunately, it was Grammarly because logging out of our account instantly fixed every glitch we were experiencing. Hopefully, this issue will be resolved in future updates.
Although it is slightly annoying to log in via the plugin every time we proof and log out after, it’s a minor issue in comparison to the benefits of the software. Premium Grammarly detects errors in contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and style. In addition, it offers a vocabulary enhancement tool that promotes word diversity.
Grammarly Premium has multiple standard settings for proofing, too. You can choose from the following types:
- General (default)
All but General can be broken down into even more precise types, such as essay, dissertation, end-user assistance document, business presentation, business report, novel, script and short story. These are just a few of the more precise settings.
The Microsoft Word add-on produces a report of errors in a display on the right side of your screen when enabled. It’s a major time saver because you can click your way through each error and either enact the suggested change with a single click or choose to ignore it.
When we’re working on novel-sized works, we find it saves us an enormous amount of time. While it’s suggested corrections are not always correct, the sections it highlights often alert us to an area in need of attention. The Microsoft Word plug-in is somewhat clunky on large files and can freeze. When we’re working on a 50+ page docs, we use the web-based software versus the plug-in.
Why Upgrade to Grammarly Premium?
After testing Grammarly via its free version on a number of projects, from blog posts to e-book and business editing, we found the upgrade to premium well worth the subscription fee. It cut the time we spent on proofreading projects by about 30%.
You can select from a monthly, quarterly or annual plan. We started with the monthly to be sure it was worth the expense, which cost us $29.95 for the month. Then, we were about to upgrade to the annual plan at its standard price of $11.66 per month; it was to be billed in one lump sum of $139.95. However, we caught a sale via an email special that gave us a one-time deal of just under $80 for an annual subscription. We grabbed it!
If you sign-up for the free version of Grammarly, you’ll receive multiple offers for a one-time discounted rate. It’s entirely possible to grab an annual subscription for less than $100 if you hit the right deal.
In our opinion, the subscription is well worth the cost. The software’s proofing capabilities are in-depth, but they do not replace the training of a human editor; they just make our job a little easier. The subscription comes with 24/7 phone and email support, making it easy to ask a question or share feedback.
The Bottom Line
The free version of Grammarly is very limited. It’s designed to offer a taste but it doesn’t do the software justice. A lot of scathing reviews are out there because the user didn’t understand how to use the software or had unrealistic expectations, namely they were looking for an automated (or cheap) replacement to a trained editor.
Grammarly offers a seven-day money back guarantee. You have complete control of your subscription via their website, and you can cancel at any time. Just keep in mind that if you don’t take advantage of the seven-day money back guarantee and choose to cancel your subscription later, you won’t receive a refund. You’ll have full access to the software until your paid subscription ends; canceling will simply stop the auto renewal.
If you’re looking for a way to improve your writing abilities or speed up the proofing process, we highly recommend Grammarly. The free version isn’t bad if you’re fine with using the website and okay with only critical issues. If writing is your profession, we think you’ll find premium a good investment; we certainly do.