Grammarly

PG took Mrs. PG out for lunch today. She’s working on edits of her next book and required a break.

Over lunch, we talked about Grammarly. Mrs. PG has used Grammarly for several of her books and finds the program very helpful with her edits. In the past, Grammarly has caught problems that her human editors have missed.

However, as anyone who has used Grammarly understands, it tends to be over-inclusive when flagging errors, highlighting grammar and spelling that is not erroneous.

The reason for Grammarly’s bias toward over-inclusion is obvious. The programmers assumed that users would prefer that Grammarly catch potential errors that weren’t necessarily mistaken rather than to have Grammarly miss an error to the detriment of an author.

However, when working through a book-length manuscript, Mrs. PG finds some of Grammarly’s most common overinclusions can become a bit annoying.

In PG’s day-to-day use, he hasn’t had any complaints about Grammarly, so he’s never looked under the hood to locate levers and configuration options beyond what he did when he installed the program.

So, PG invites one and all to share their Grammarly likes, dislikes, tweaks and workarounds. Perhaps PG can make some changes so the program writes posts for TPV all by itself.

Is the program something you use all the time? If you don’t use it all the time, for what sorts of writing is it helpful and for what sorts of writing do you find it unnecessary or more trouble than it’s worth?

Have you tweaked or modified the program or its settings in ways you’ve found helpful? Do you ever use Grammarly in a manner that you don’t think the designers/engineers of the program anticipated? If so, how have you used it and why?

Is there an alternate to Grammarly that you like better? If so, what is it and why?

Any and all Grammarly-related comments will be appreciated.

16 thoughts on “Grammarly”

  1. Yes! I mean, just these past three days I’ve been trying to see if I want to use Grammarly, or Pro Writing Aid, or Autocrit. It seems Autocrit is geared specifically for fiction writers, which makes it tempting, but I was curious if Grammarly or Pro Writing Aid could be used that way.

    I’ve also saw a mention of a program called Hemingway, but the name puts me off — think of aposematic coloring on snakes — because I’m not into his style. I gather Autocrit will let you select genre, as well as particular writers whose styles you are into, but I’m hoping to get more info on hype vs. reality from a real user rather than a marketing spokesperson.

    I await responses. Please respond 🙂

    • I utilize Hemmingway alongside Grammarly. I find Hemmingway good to help point out sentences that are hard to read or overuse of adverbs…
      BUT
      I make sure to exercise my own judgment in whether I accept its pronouncements. It tends to want to dumb down sentences to the point that everything is a short, choppy sentence.

      Like all writing aids, your own judgment must make the final decision. These two are my favorites at the moment.

      • Thanks for weighing in. I agree the writer should make a final decision, even with human editors. I just don’t want to fight software (or humans) who think that you should use “business English” rather than “fiction English.” CJ Cherryh had to fight a human editor who wanted to “correct” her science fiction so that it fit the rules of business English. The editor needed to be fired, obviously. Horse whipping said editor is optional…

  2. I use Autocrit. I find that these digital editors are good for certain things that humans are bad at catching, particularly inadvertently repeated words. (If “suspended” was good for one sentence, it seems to pop up several times in the next few lines… The brain is clearly sticky in its vocabulary choices.)

    Even the simple “the the” when it breaks across lines when proofreading can be hard to see, since the brain is so good at skipping over it.

    For every thing else, I find all of the editors “meh”.

    • With Autocrit, are you able to upload a style guide, too, for fantasy / sci-fi? So if you have “mithril” or “raygun” it won’t flag them as errors, but it will catch “mirthil” as a typo? Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid mention having that feature, but I’m not sure if Autocrit does. It would be surprising (and disappointing) if they don’t.

        • It didn’t, but I found the answer via their chat function, where they linked to a video on their blog.

          For interested parties: Autocrit lets you exclude words from their report, so if you didn’t want “mithril” flagged, it won’t. They also allow you to include words in their report, e.g., if you fear you write “inconceivable!” too often it’ll let you know. You also have the option to add character names, to see how often a POV character is used.

  3. When, on a national commercial for Grammarly, the spokesperson said it would help find “run-on sentences” and described those as just “really long sentences” they lost me. Writers alone should know what a run-on sentence is and isn’t (and it’s cousin, the comma splice), but any company that touts itself as an aid to writers should definitely know.

  4. I use only a spellcheck. And a professional editor for full length books – one I trust and who likes my particular style. Otherwise, I think I know better than Grammarly most of the time. (I do. I used to teach this stuff.) But I’ve never understood the US dislike of the passive voice. Not you, obviously! The grammatical one. And things that are routinely flagged up as passive – just aren’t. My PC is littered with files labelled ‘final final final draft’ or variants thereof. I always let a piece of writing lie fallow for a few months and reread it in a different format – sometimes on my Kindle. Whereupon pretty much every error leaps out at me. I still get a literate and pernickety (persnickety? US?) friend to run through the final version to check for typos, punctuation errors etc.

    • Good points, Catherine.

      Allowing time to pass before a reread and changing the format definitely surface errors/awkwardness that I previously overlooked. Mrs. PG tends to be a driven woman and (thankfully), many of her fans are apparently anxious for her next book.

      One of the things about indie publishing is that an author doesn’t have a publisher and its internal processes to slow things down. It some cases, that’s good, but if an author pushes the baby out of the house before it’s ready to walk on its own, there are negative consequences.

      I agree on the use of the passive voice. Most US editors/teachers/etc. are death on it, but, unless it’s overused, I don’t mind seeing it on occasion.

  5. I use ProWritingAid. At first I was all “chase down and replace everything, but since then I’ve gone it’s just guidelines and ignore everything I don’t want to change.

  6. I’ve tried all the editing tools mentioned here, a few that aren’t, and even wrote one for myself to catch clumps of over-used words, which lead me deep down a rat hole deciphering the undocumented docx XML.

    They all work for me for a while, then I internalize them and they cease being a help. Now, I find leaving a piece to lie fallow, then reading it aloud for as long as my voice will stand it is the most effective for me. I’ve tried and given up on automated text-to-voice because the best edits come when I find myself speaking words different from those I see on the page, which doesn’t happen for me with text-to-voice.

    I also make use of Word’s spell and grammar checking with most of the rules turned off because I often intentionally use non-standard grammar. I also create a Word custom dictionary for each book to catch my spellings of proper names, made-up words, and the “broken-down patois” some of my characters use.

    My home-made overuse clump finder is handy, but I’ve never bothered to clean it up enough to make it usable for anyone but myself, and reading aloud works better for me anyway.

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