Grammarly Review 2019: How Good Is It? A Human Editor Weighs In

Posted 05 Feb 2019, by

Brendan Brown

We all rely on the spell check feature in word processors to catch minor spelling and grammar mistakes. But technology has advanced, and now writers have tools like Grammarly at their disposal.

As a professional editor by trade, I know a great deal about what a human editor brings to the table.

But that’s not to say that tools like Grammarly don’t have a place. In fact, they can be a useful addition to any writer’s toolbox.

But what is Grammarly? How good is it really? And can it replace the need for a human proofreader or editor?

I answer these questions and more in my Grammarly review below.

Grammarly overview

The Grammarly homepage says it all. It uses an ‘AI-powered writing assistant’ to help you ‘compose bold, clear, mistake-free writing’

In short, Grammarly acts as another line of defense against sloppy writing. You’ll get:

  • A basic grammar review, such as punctuation, active vs passive voice, and wordiness
  • An accurate spell-checker
  • A vocabulary too to help with your word choices
  • An analysis of sentence structure

Just how effectively it carries out these roles depends in part on the plan you are using. Grammarly offers a free version that anyone can use without restrictions, a premium plan for individuals, and a business plan for teams.

We’ll look at these plans in greater depth later on.

Using Grammarly

To start using Grammarly, all you have to do is sign up for an account. You can sign up for the Free version from the homepage by clicking on the ‘Add to Chrome’ button.

This will take you to the Chrome extension, and you are then asked to fill out your email address on the home screen:

Once you’ve signed up, you will be taken to the dashboard, which looks like this:

And then you’re ready to start using it!

Ways to use Grammarly

You may be thinking: do I have to copy and paste everything I write into a Grammar text box for it to check my writing? Because that would be pretty annoying…

The answer is no, there are other (more convenient) ways to go about it.

Grammarly is an internet-based tool, so you need to be connected to the internet to use it. However, there are various ways in which you can check your work, including:

1. Website

The first option is to simply copy and paste your writing directly into the Grammarly web tool. To do this, click on ‘New’ in the dashboard and you will be presented with a blank page.

Copy your writing into the page and leave it a few seconds. The Grammarly tool will start analyzing the writing before coming up with a list of mistakes or recommendations.

You can achieve the same effect by uploading a document via the dashboard. Simply click ‘Upload’ instead of ‘New’, choose a document (e.g. a Word doc) from your computer, and Grammarly will analyze the content in the same way.

Alternatively, you can type directly into the Grammarly website, and the tool will check your writing as you go.

2. Desktop app

If you would prefer to check your writing via a desktop app, this is possible – as long as you use Windows or MacOS.

Simply download the app for your system by visiting the download page, follow the installation instructions and start using the tool in much the same way as the online version.

3. Microsoft Word

You can also use a Grammarly add-in directly within Microsoft Word. However, at the time of writing, this is only available if you are running Windows.

Visit the add-in page here and follow the instructions to add it to Word. Once up and running, the add-in will check your writing as you type.

4. Chrome extension

One of the easiest ways to use Grammarly is via the Chrome extension.

There is a link on the homepage to this extension, or you can search for Grammarly in the Chrome Web Store.

Simply add the extension to Chrome as you would any other extension, and it will automatically check your writing when you use it on a number of websites.

This includes Gmail, providing you with assistance when you are typing an email, and even Google Docs for those of you who prefer Google’s word processor.

Here are a few of the other sites that you can use it on:

Grammarly use options

5. On your phone

Grammarly also has its own keyboard that you can use on your smartphone. This is available for both iOS and Android devices.

Once activated, the app will check your writing as you compose an email or text message. It is very useful if you want to catch those little mistakes that are so easy to make on phones, and it also has smart predictions to speed up your typing.

You can download the app at the Play Store or the App Store.

How much does Grammarly cost?

The great thing about Grammarly is that you can use it without paying anything. Yes, using Grammarly can be free.

The free version of Grammarly has no restrictions, meaning you can sign up and use it for as long as you want to without any limit or trial period.

If you want to upgrade to Premium, the current pricing starts at:

  • $11.66 a month when you pay annually
  • $19.98 a month when you pay quarterly
  • $29.95 a month when you pay monthly.

Grammarly Business costs $15 per user per month when billed annually. This provides you with everything included in premium with the addition of an admin panel, statistics for your team, centralized billing and priority support.

Free version: What you get

The free version of Grammarly is actually pretty good.

It provides you with a comprehensive spelling, grammar and punctuation checker, which is more powerful than the average spell check you get with most word processors.

When the tool finds potential mistakes, it underlines them in red. If you are using the web interface, you can then progress through each issue by clicking the sections on the right (Grammar, Punctuation, etc). Or you can click on individual highlighted errors to find out more.

The free version will catch most of the basic mistakes in your writing as well as suggesting words that you may have meant to use. For example, it highlights spelling mistakes:

Grammarly spelling mistakes

Punctuation mistakes:

It also allows you to choose your version of English depending on where your readers are based:

It will also highlight convention mistakes. For example, it will highlight ‘color’ if you are writing in Australian English.

You can also add words to your personal dictionary so they don’t show up as mistakes in the future:

You will also see how many issues Grammarly Premium has found in your writing. Crucially, these will not be visible to you in the free version, and you will have to upgrade to see them.

Another useful feature of the free account is that you can set goals for your writing. When typing directly into the website, click on ‘Set Goals’ on the right of the page, and the following popup will appear:

You can then select the style, level of emotion, intent and audience to help Grammarly provide more accurate feedback on your writing.

You can also get detailed stats on your writing. Click ‘Performance’ on the right side of the page, and Grammarly provides you with a score, word count, reading time, readability and more:


Premium version: What you get

The premium version of Grammarly does everything that the free version does (unsurprisingly) plus a lot more.

It includes a far greater number of checks (over 400) including grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and context. In addition to the checks on the free version, it includes:

  • Writing inconsistencies
  • Unclear structure
  • Overuse of words
  • Wordiness
  • Inappropriate tone
  • Insensitive language

It also provides suggestions for vocabulary improvements and style checks for different types of writing (e.g. academic writing).

Under the ‘Set Goals’ option, you can choose the type of writing you are creating from a selection including Academic, Business, Technical, Creative and Casual:

By checking the style of your writing, the premium version can help you spot stylistic issues that weaken your writing. For example, it will pick up on instances where you use the passive voice or where you end sentences with prepositions. While not always wrong, such issues may weaken your writing.

Another useful feature included in the premium version is the plagiarism checker. This checks your writing on the web to find out if you have, for example, forgotten to remove content that you were using for research purposes.

This is also a useful tool for students and content marketers who need to make sure they have not inadvertently copied the writing from anywhere else.

Is the premium version worth it?

Yes, if you can afford it.

The free version is a useful tool, and better than not having a set of digital eyes run over your writing. It will identify more spelling and grammar mistakes than your typical free checker (I’m looking at you, Microsoft Word).

If you’re a writer on a budget, try installing the free Chrome browser extension and test it for yourself.

However, as with most things in life, things with a price are better than their free alternatives.

Grammarly Premium will identify more spelling and grammar issues in your document. You’ll also receive tips to improve your writing style and feedback/context behind your mistakes.

If you take your writing craft seriously, the premium version is definitely worth the extra expense.

How Grammarly compares to a human editor

This is the part of my Grammarly review I was most excited to write about!

I’m a professional editor of books and journal articles destined for high level English language journals. I know how important clear, accurate and error free writing is.

Although Grammarly is effective at catching certain mistakes, it is not a human editor. As an editor, it’s clear to me that machines still have a long way to go before they can match humans.

For a start, some mistakes will slip through on Grammarly, even mistakes that seem quite basic. Some mistakes are simply harder for machines to spot.

For example, you may use a word that is spelt correctly but is not the right word in the context of the paragraph. Or you may mention that someone has blonde hair in one paragraph and brown hair in the next.

Grammarly would not pick up on these mistakes, but a good human editor would.

When it comes to more advanced issues like paragraph length, tone of voice and the meaning of phrases and sentences, a human is often necessary.

As a result, while Grammarly is a very useful tool for casual writing, it is not suitable for more formal writing. If you are writing a dissertation, important business document or a manuscript, professional editing is important.

In the end, I don’t believe that Grammarly and human editors are in direct competition. You don’t need to make a choice between them. They have different uses for different types of writing.

My verdict: Should you get Grammarly?

You’ve read through my Grammarly review, so you know I like it and I use it myself when I write on this blog and elsewhere.

It’s not perfect, and will never replace a professional human editor, but it does a good job for what it’s designed to do.

So should you use it?

I think Grammarly can be a handy tool for almost any writer.

The free version is useful for anyone who writes shorter pieces of writing, from bloggers to students to anyone who regularly composes emails.

As for the Premium version, it is particularly useful for anyone producing more professional, longer form content, like documents and reports.

I also recommend the premium version to anyone for whom English is their second language.

It’s very easy to make mistakes with the intricacies of English, and Grammarly picks up a lot (though not all) of them. As well as simply highlighting mistakes, it suggests improvements, making it a useful tool to improve your written English.

Verdict: If you want to provide an extra layer of checks to your writing, or you want to improve your writing by becoming more aware of frequent issues that weaken it, Grammarly is well worth getting.

Thanks for reading my Grammarly review. I hope you found it useful.

As you may have seen I have placed a few affiliate links in this article. This means that I may receive a small commission from Grammarly if you sign up. However, the price of the premium version remains the same for you, and you can always just use Grammarly for free here.

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