Welcome to One Woman Experiments, where daring business women experiment with different parts of their business in order to find best practices. We hope these mini-experiments help improve your business and inspire you to test-drive new strategies. Have an experiment you want to test out and document? Check out our ideas and guidelines! This experiment was diligently embarked upon by author, editor, and writing coach Amanda Shofner.
I set out on an experiment with Grammarly, an automated grammar checker. The question I wanted to answer was simple:
Can Grammarly replace the need to have an extra pair of eyes on your blog posts?
As an editor, I know how important it is to have someone else look at your writing — and how awful grammar checkers like Microsoft Word can be.
In the online business world, especially when you’re going it alone, it’d be convenient to have something to catch potentially embarrassing mistakes before you hit publish. If Grammarly could be that thing, I was determined to find out.
Tell us your methodology.
My Grammarly trial lasted three months. Because I was looking specifically at blog posts, I only used the Grammarly app when I was getting ready to schedule posts, which is when I proofread.
Being unfamiliar with Grammarly, I didn’t have specific measurables, but planned to pit Grammarly’s corrections against my own thoughts about editing. For every correction, I asked, “Would I have suggested this?” or “Would I have caught this?”
What were the results of adopting Grammarly into your proofreading process?
Full disclosure: I had mixed feelings.
What worked for me:
- Each flagged item included an explanation so you can a.) decide for yourself if you want to correct it, and b.) learn from it.
- The dashboard and app is very intuitive. If you can copy and paste, you can use it.
- Grammarly picked up tiny mistakes I didn’t catch — e.g., ‘roadblocks’ is one word, not two.
- It pointed out vague words and suggested alternatives.
What didn’t work for me:
- The “business” mode is formal, which means it flags contractions, prepositions at the end of sentences, and conjunctions (and, but) at the beginning of sentences as wrong. In blogging, though, if want your personality to shine through, those things are good, not bad. You can use the personal mode for blog posts, but it doesn’t catch as much.
- The explanations provided were filled with grammatical terms, which only helps those who know them. (It’s unavoidable, I know, but it won’t benefit those unfamiliar with grammatical terms.)
- Grammarly may be better than MS Word, but it’s still a software program, which means it can’t grasp all the intricacies of grammar — numerous times it told me something was wrong when it wasn’t.
Here’s an example of my last point:
“When your binge on writing”? Not exactly. Problem: Grammarly wants me to use binge as a noun. I used it as a verb. Binge can be a noun or verb.
Based on what didn’t work for me, I suspected that Grammarly wouldn’t help proficient writers. You might catch a few minor mistakes here and there, but you’re probably smarter than you give yourself credit for. Read your post out loud — that’ll catch mistakes too.
But I wasn’t ready to give up. I formulated a new question:
Can Grammarly help self-proclaimed ‘less-than-proficient’ writers with their blog posts and online content?
I roped The Stacey Harris into helping me, because she’s talked about not being a fan of writing multiple times. Using the same methodology above, we took one of her sales pages and ran it through Grammarly.
Here were some of our mutual observations:
- It’s easy to use.
- It’d be great for her son once he hits the point in school when he’ll be required to write papers.
- Some of the suggestions weren’t helpful. (Stacey would say, “But I liked it the way I wrote it.”)
- I had to explain what some of the explanations meant, like the one on passive voice, and how to fix it.
- The cheapest subscription plan was $139.95 for a year (or $11.66 per month). A monthly plan is $29.95 per month.
- My edits of her sales page (which I did for comparison’s sake) were more in-depth, but that’s because Grammarly is a proofreader, not a copy editor.
Side experiment: a quick run with Grammarly Lite
We discovered that Grammarly has Grammarly Lite, a free version of the browser plugin.
The free version checks contextual spelling, commonly confused words, article use, capitalizations, and comma use in compound sentences. Sounds decent, but the pro version checks for word choice, subject-verb agreement, pronoun use, run-ons, and comma splices, where the majority of people’s troubles lie.
If you want the browser plugin, the pro version will catch more of those embarrassing mistakes.
Conclusions + Summary
In the end, I had two questions to answer. Can Grammarly replace the need to have an extra pair of eyes on your blog posts? and Can Grammarly help self-proclaimed ‘less-than-proficient’ writers with their blog posts and online content?
The answer is yes, but you need to understand what you write and what you want you want.
Grammarly was created for students and corporate businesses, and for those purposes, it’s a great tool. Having Grammarly when I was writing my Master’s thesis would have been awesome.
But because Grammarly is best with formal language, bloggers or brands who pour their personality into their writing may struggle. The business option suggests changes that are too stuffy; the personal post option doesn’t catch enough. A business casual option would go a long way toward easing that struggle.
My final note for you: remember it’s a proofreader, not an editor. An editor digs into who your audience is and what your post needs to accomplish. She’ll rearrange your sentences for clarity or make suggestions to better develop your post. If you’ve got that down and want to focus on surface issues, Grammarly will work for you.
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