In September 2013, I was on holiday in Turkey. I was supposed to be on a break from writing. One night, as I was eating dinner, my phone began to go crazy.
Uh oh. Something was happening. On a high-profile article that I’d written, the comments were going nuts.
Readers had spotted a pretty major blooper.
I had intended to write, “most blog networks will have to shut down.” But I’d written something altogether different.
If I’d been using Grammarly, the post would never have gone live with that mistake, because its grammar checker would have picked it up, like this:
That mistake was live for several hours. (Fortunately, the client thought it was funny. During my initial panic, I did not.)
All writers make embarrassing mistakes in their content. It’s unavoidable. Sometimes you miss a word or add an extra space. Another set of eyes is always helpful. That’s not to say that Grammarly is perfect, but it sure beats flying by the seat of your pants — or publishing a profanity on a client’s website.
Using Grammarly for Free
Grammarly is available free as a Chrome extension. It will pick out “basic” grammar and spelling errors. It’s lightweight, and it’s easy to install.
There’s also a Premium account that dives deeper into the text to pick up more complicated grammatical mistakes. If you frequently edit content that’s contributed by other writers, the Premium account’s plagiarism checker may also be of interest:
If you’re considering the Premium version, there are a few things to bear in mind:
- The free version is more relaxed on phrasing and punctuation and picks out far fewer potential mistakes
- Premium suggests words that can be removed, and that makes content a lot more readable
- You can select a document type in Premium, and that changes the way Grammarly scans content
- Neither version of Grammarly works with Google Drive. You can obviously copy and paste your content into Grammarly from Google Drive and then copy and paste it back. But it would be nice if Google Drive integration was on the feature list for Premium.
Working in Grammarly
If you want to write directly in Grammarly, you can use its web editor, or its Mac or Windows desktop application. While this editor is OK, it isn’t made for HTML, and that’s why I rarely use it.
For example, this is what the Grammarly desktop editor does when I paste a chunk of this post in:
As you can see, Grammarly has tried to correct the text in a class name. It can’t distinguish words that are inside chunks of code.
This isn’t going to be a deal-breaker for everyone, but if you work in HTML, it’s a pain. I would prefer it if Grammarly could detect HTML. Even better, I’d like it to format it properly, or use colors for tags like TextWrangler does.
But no matter. For its primary purpose – grammar checking – it does a great job.
If you prefer the Chrome extension over the desktop software, the free version picks up basic mistakes. But once you have Premium, you get additional options, including one that I think is essential for English content writers that work across continents:
The language selector drop-down here is my favorite Grammarly feature. I write for American websites a lot, but the nuances of American English can be tricky for me as a British English speaker — and vice versa. Using this setting, I can ensure that my grammar and spelling are (mostly) correct for the location of the site I’m writing for.
Finally, you’ll probably want to examine some of the corrections before you accept them. Take this one from the next section as an example:
In this case, I want to stick with the word that I originally chose. I can easily ignore the suggestion by clicking the trash can to remove the red underline.
There’s also a Grammarly plugin for Microsoft Word. As this is a Windows-only feature, and I use a Mac, I can’t comment on how well it works.
The Grammarly WordPress Bug
Grammarly works reasonably well with the visual editor in WordPress, whether you choose the free of Premium version. It catches many errors in near-real time, which has saved me a lot of work going over content in drafts.
But it isn’t perfect.
There is a really weird bug in the Grammarly Chrome extension. I see it all the time in WordPress, but perhaps it exists elsewhere and I haven’t noticed.
There are two issues:
- Content clones itself at random
- Line breaks appear mid-sentence.
I’ve noticed that cloning occurs if the WordPress editor creates a line break (or you press enter) while the red line is being drawn under a mistake. But it can also happen totally randomly as you’re typing. Tou wind up with something like this:
As Grammarly highlighted the word “underline”, I happened to hit the enter key. When the line break was inserted, part of the text was duplicated. And the cloned part easy to miss, particularly if the duplicated section is short.
And the cloned part easy to miss, particularly if the duplicated section is short.
This is a real pain. I see complaints about this bug going back a couple of years, but it seems like no fix has been found yet. I’m eagerly awaiting a solution.
Is Grammarly Premium Worth It?
If you want to avoid obvious errors in your content, the free version will help you to do that. In fact, the Chrome extension is pretty good all by itself — and should be standard issue for professional writers.
If you’re serious about improving the quality of your content, and you want Grammarly to teach you better habits, then Premium is better. Not only is the grammar checking much more detailed in Premium, but that language selector is a lifesaver when you’re writing for different continents.
The WordPress bugs desperately need ironing out in the Chrome extension. But I’d still miss Grammarly Premium if I had to write without it. It’s helped me to work through bad habits and helps me to sharpen up my text.