Grammarly Review 2019: How Good Is It? A Human Editor Weighs In
- What is it: Grammarly is an online spelling and grammar checker that acts your last line of defense against mistakes and typos.
- Price: You have two main options: a free version (which is actually pretty good) and a premium version for $29.95 per month (or $139.95 per year if you pay it annually).
- Who’s it for: It’s suitable for casual writing, from bloggers to students to anyone who regularly composes emails. Be more careful though when using it for professional documents.
- The best part: Grammarly is incredibly easy to use and is probably the most powerful online grammar checker available.
- Can it replace a human editor?: No. Human editors and Grammarly are not in direct competition. They have different uses for different types of writing
- Verdict: Grammarly is definitely worth getting for some writers. Will you benefit from it? Read the full review below to find out.
As a professional editor by trade, I know what a human editor can bring to the table.
However, I still use Grammarly on a regular basis to proofread whatever I post on this blog. I have a pretty good grasp on grammar and English rules already, but it’s surprising how typos and small errors can creep into anyone’s writing.
So 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.
Note: This article contains affiliate links which means we make a small commission if you end up signing up to Grammarly. However, this certainly didn’t stop me from sharing the good and the bad.
So what’s all the hype about? What does Grammarly actually do?
Grammarly is your personal English teacher staring over your shoulder while you write anything online – social media posts, emails, Microsoft Word documents, or WordPress pages. So if you haven’t had an English grammar refresher class in a few years, Grammarly’s got you covered.
Here’s how it works:
Grammarly analyzes a piece of text you’ve written and checks for any errors. The free version covers the basics (grammar, punctuation, and spelling), while the premium version takes it a step further, offering stylistic and best-writing-practice suggestions.
It’s the difference between writing like an average English speaker and writing like an English language expert.
|Feature||What does it do||The “extra” Grammarly touch|
|Grammar and Punctuation||It detects basic and advanced grammar and punctuation errors – alliteration, comma splices, run-on sentences, fragments, and much more.||If you’re not sure why a mistake is a mistake, no problem: Grammarly will tell you. It gives you that extra explanation in a quick and easy-to-understand lesson format.|
|Spell Check||It checks every word for any spelling errors.||More comprehensive and robust than your average Microsoft Word spell checker, Grammarly’s spell check has first-class accuracy, perhaps the best in the industry.|
|Plagiarism||It can scan your entire document for any cases of plagiarism, intentional or unintentional.||Not every case of plagiarism was done on purpose, which is why a tool like Grammarly is important to give your documents the full plagiarism rundown before you publish anything online.|
|Writing Style||It provides that “near human” touch by offering tips, suggestions, and advice on your writing style.||Perhaps the most underappreciated Grammarly feature. It gives you help with sentence-length, overall readability, and other actionable insights on improving your writing. If you want to become a better writer, this is exactly what you need.|
No matter what kind of writing you might be doing – professional writing, casual writing, hobby writing – Grammarly can help you spruce up your emails, social media posts, blogs, and formal papers.
In saying that, I think the following people can most benefit from using Grammarly:
- Content marketers and copywriters
- Business writers and professionals who want to draft an accurate report, presentation, or email.
To sign up to Grammarly or simply peek around and see what they have to offer, check them out here.
Do you even need a grammar checker?
Hear me out: I’m not the type of guy who enjoys going around correcting people’s work like a grammar cop.
But as an editor, I know how important it is to write clearly and accurately. In this day and age of “chat speak” and emojis and short-form content, it can be easy to think of grammar as just another old-timey convention. But the difference between great grammar and bad grammar is huge.
It’s all about your message
Here’s the hard truth: Writing is all about sharing a message, and the better you write, the clearer you can convey your message.
If people have difficulty understanding the nuances of your message – whether it’s a final paper for university, a business proposal, or even just a silly Tweet – then they’ll have difficulty understanding you.
Your writing is you
So much of what we say and do is online these days.
I can’t stress enough how many times smart and professional people have come across negatively simply because they didn’t know how to proofread and double check their published words.
Why embarrass yourself when you can be professional—just by using a simple online tool?
And the simplest point: why not?
You have nothing to lose and everything to gain by improving your writing with a little Grammarly help. Increase the impact of everything you say by saying it the right way.
So a powerful online grammar checker is potentially a great way for writers to ensure that their work is clear and error free. However, although Grammarly is very good, it’s not perfect.
Below I’ll explain some of its pros and cons in more detail, as well as how to get the most out of using Grammarly.
The 3 Reasons Why I Always Recommend Grammarly
Let’s start with the pros, and why I always recommend Grammarly to my friends and family.
1. You Don’t Have To Be a Computer Whiz To Get It
It might be 2019, but some people still twitch at the word “software” (there’s a reason why we’ve moved to the word “app”). Most of us just don’t want to deal with anything extra, and would rather stick to what we already know instead of integrating something new into our routines.
I get it.
But Grammarly isn’t like most other software out there. As complex and advanced as Grammarly can be, it’s got an incredibly simple user interface and user experience. You could teach it to your grandparents and they’d be using it in an hour.
There are a few ways you can use Grammarly (which we explore more below), which include:
- The browser extension
- The Grammarly web tool
- The downloadable desktop app
- The Microsoft Word add-in
- The mobile app
This means that after just a few simple clicks, you can use Grammarly in whatever way you want: copying and pasting your text into the online tool or desktop app, or just having the Grammarly pop-ups and corrective lines naturally appear in your browser or Microsoft Word while you’re writing.
And trust me – I’ve briefly played around with other online Grammar checkers, such as ProWritingAid and Ginger, and Grammarly is the easiest to use by far.
As an editor, there’s nothing better than knowing I can recommend people to install an intuitive and easy tool that will make their life (and my life) easier.
2. It WORKS.
And that’s a huge benefit. Writing software has never been totally correct. Most software and apps will get most of the usual mistakes and errors, but anything more advanced and you’re on your own.
Grammarly has always gone the extra mile – no matter how advanced the mistake or suggestion, they’ve got you covered – and I wanted to understand why.
What makes Grammarly different, and why is it so much more effective than other products I’ve tried?
Here are some interesting facts:
- Grammarly’s co-founders have been working on writing software since the late 90s, and they released their first software – Mydropbox – in 2002. In just 5 years, they had nearly a thousand universities signed up.
- They focused on creating a product that would benefit everyone. Both students and professionals with formal and academic writers, as well as casual, everyday writers with informal writing.
- They have an in-house team of deep learning engineers and computational linguists that are constantly at work tweaking their “good writing” algorithms by studying millions of pages from research databases.
The level of nuance that Grammarly can achieve is incredible, and perhaps my favorite part of using this tool.
3. It Teaches You Everything You Need To Know
While all grammar checkers provide the obvious feature of highlighting your mistakes, Grammarly goes the extra mile by actually teaching you why your mistakes are wrong.
For example, check out their explanation on sentence fragments:
This means that you not only ensure that your documents, emails, and posts are written with top-level English grammar, but also that you will slowly and proactively improve your writing naturally simply through Grammarly’s micro-lessons.
Here are just some of the common grammar and stylistic suggestions I’ve experienced with Grammarly:
- Best comma placement (avoid comma splices!)
- Word overuse
- Word redundancy (words like “really” and “actually” often add little to no meaning)
- Phrase and sentence structure
- Adverb overuse
- Ambiguous modifiers
- Confusion of lie/lay
- Incorrect or ambiguous pronouns
- Run-on sentences and wordiness
- “Could of” instead of “could have”
If English is your second language or if you just want a nice daily lesson in grammar, there’s no better tool out there than Grammarly.
The different 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 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. The Official Grammarly Web Tool
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 give the site a few seconds to work its magic. In just a few moments, the software reads, analyzes, and corrects your writing, right down to the finest details.
If you have a full and complete document, you can just upload it directly to the site. Simply click ‘Upload’ instead of ‘New’, choose a document 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. Browser extension
One of the easiest ways to use Grammarly is via a browser 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:
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 ($139.95 in total)
- $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.
Thinking of saying ‘yes’ to Grammarly? You can sign up it here.
Free version: What you get
Unlike some products – where the free version or free trial is a poor and hugely-limited version of itself – the free version of Grammarly is actually pretty great.
It provides you with the basics you need to lay down your writing foundation, 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:
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 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.
Check out the free version of Grammarly here.
Premium version: What you get
You can’t get much better than the premium or paid version of Grammarly, which I would consider the crème de la crème of grammar-checking software. Firstly, everything you get in the free version, you get it in the premium version.
And then you get everything else.
Premium Grammarly includes a far greater number of checks relating to grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and context. In addition to the checks on the free version, it includes:
- Writing inconsistencies
- Unclear structure
- Overuse of words
- Inappropriate tone
- Insensitive language
Check out the premium version of Grammarly here.
Here’s a great overview from Grammarly comparing the free versus the premium models:
Customized Feedback: My Favorite Feature and Why
My favorite feature out of all of these has to be the ability to personalize the type of feedback you want.
As a writer, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve gritted my teeth through feedback from a person who didn’t understand the purpose, intent, or direction of my writing.
Don’t get me wrong: feedback is always important, but when giving feedback you also have to consider the reasons behind the writing, or why the text was written in the first place. And with Grammarly, they’re making a conscious effort to turn their AI editor into something more human with the personalized goals.
Let’s talk about why these settings are important, and how Grammarly helps you draw the lines in the sand when it comes to your writing.
- Intent: With the choices of “inform”, “describe”, “convince”, and “tell a story”, you know that the software will try to understand why you’ve set up a narrative a certain way.
- Audience: Your audience is crucial when determining the delivery of your content. Using jargon and highly technical, industry-specific words can be incredibly useful when your audience are experts in the field, but incredibly jarring when they’re the general audience.
- Style: The difference between formal writing and informal writing can make or break your paper, assignment, proposal, or even email. You have to know when and when not to use certain phrases and language.
- Emotion: With the choices of mild or strong, this is an interesting parameter that most people don’t consider. The same content can be said in vastly different ways, depending on small tweaks in the sentences and word choice.
While their personalized feedback algorithms aren’t perfect and as thorough as they could be, it’s intriguing to see that there’s development towards turning a simple grammar check program into an all-around text analyst.
It’s the closest thing you can get towards having a real-life writing coach discussing the nuances of language as you go over your writing.
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 that cost money 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.
I personally pay for the premium version because I appreciate the extra features.
When it comes to writing a blog about editing, proofreading and the art of writing, it’s important that typos and small errors never creep into my writing.
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 spelled 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, the tone of voice and the meaning of phrases and sentences, a human is often necessary.
The thing is that English is a tricky language to write well in, and it’s even trickier to proofread.
English has flexible grammar rules and the elements to good writing and good storytelling are highly contextual. Human eyes will always be superior to the rigidity of automatic tools.
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, an important business document or a manuscript, professional editing is important.
In the end, Grammarly and human editors are not in direct competition. You don’t need to make a choice between them. They have different uses for different types of writing.
Grammarly vs the competition
Grammarly isn’t the only online grammar checker you have at your disposal. However, with over 10 million subscribers, it is the most ubiquitous.
Like Grammarly, they are full-on grammar, punctuation and spell checkers.
How do they compare to Grammarly? Are they a viable alternative? Is there a clear winner when it comes to robot grammar checking?
Let’s find out.
Note: I am a premium subscriber to Grammarly, but used the free versions of ProWritingAid, Ginger and WhiteSmoke for this Grammarly review article. The free versions gave me a pretty good feel as to how they work and but my view of their premium features is based on what they can do on paper, rather than how I experienced them in real life.
- Probably the best Grammarly alternative out there.
- As well as correcting spelling and grammar mistakes, it also focuses on strengthening your writing. It does this by checking for style issues like sentence structure, cliches, overused words, repeated phrases, and not enough variety in sentence length.
- Provides a detailed report of your writing focusing on these ‘bigger picture’ issues. This could be a handy tool for longer pieces of writing, such as books or essays.
- I really like their focus on style. As an editor, I come across sentences and passages every day that aren’t technically incorrect but the expression is awkward and a little painful to read. The style suggestions provided by ProWritingAid could improve all sorts of convoluted writing.
- Excellent value for money. The Premium version is $60 per year and the Premium+ (which includes a plagiarism checker) is $70. Grammarly substantially more at $139.95 per year.
- It trades simplicity for its comprehensiveness.
- As a pure spelling and grammar checker, it’s not as advanced or user-friendly as Grammarly.
- It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer volume of information it provides regarding style. While their suggestions may be useful if you’re writing a book or essay, for every day writing such as email and social media posts, it’s mostly unnecessary.
- Not as seamless to use as it only offers a browser extension for Chrome. This is pretty important because Chrome stopped being the best web browser a few years back.
- It has a few extra features that Grammarly doesn’t have, such as a translator that allows you to translate your text between 60 languages.
- On a practical level, a translator could be really useful for someone who needs to write in more languages than just English. For instance, you could write in Spanish, translate to English, and check for spelling and grammar errors – all in Ginger.
- You get your own personal dictionary. This means you can tell Ginger you don’t want certain words identified as a mistake. If you use unusual character names in a story or technical jargon, then this is really useful.
- A yearly subscription costs $89.88 vs $139.95 for Grammarly.
- Although Ginger may have similar functionality to Grammarly, it’s not as easy to use and its interface is a little on the ugly side.
- You also have to hover over the grammar errors rather than them being shown immediately. This slows the proofreading process down somewhat.
- It doesn’t offer a Mac desktop app yet nor does it integrate with MS Word.
- Like all the good grammar checkers, it integrates with all the major platforms. It has Windows and MacOs desktop apps, and it’s available as an extension for all the major browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera).
- Helps you compose professional documents. It provides useful templates for writing projects such as Thank You, condolences and Sorry notes.
- A yearly subscription costs $79.99 per year vs $139.95 for Grammarly.
- Not as advanced as Grammarly, ProWritingAid and Ginger, at least in terms of the user interface and speed. It just feels more clunky to use.
Why Grammarly is my preferred choice
On the face of it, these grammar checkers provide some serious competition to Grammarly.
ProWritingAid, Ginger, and WhiteSmoke are all robust grammar, spelling and punctuation checkers. They also have some additional features that Grammarly does not. ProWritingAid provides more comprehensive feedback on your writing style. Ginger has an inbuilt language translator, and WhiteSmoke has professional templates to help you draft professional documents.
And they are all cheaper than Grammarly too.
However, I still think Grammarly is the best online grammar checker. The reason is simple – it’s the easiest and most intuitive to use.
Grammarly is a more elegant, streamlined and functional tool than its 3 main competitors. They all have an element of clunkiness in comparison.
In particular, the Grammarly desktop app looks great and the layout is highly functional with its minimalist icons. You instantaneously see the mistakes, the reason for the mistake, and can quickly choose to implement or discard them with a simple click.
Installing Grammarly is also so easy. With just a few clicks it checks everything I write when I’m in my browser (I use Firefox). It just works seamlessly in the background.
It’s not surprising that Grammarly is more beautiful and easier to use than its competitors. It’s simply a bigger company with more resources.
Think about this. If they can afford to spend millions on those sleek TV commercials you’ve almost certainly come across, image how much they’ve invested into R&D and design across their website, apps and browser extensions?
If online grammar checking were an arms race, Grammarly possesses all the nukes.
I’m usually all for supporting plucky upstarts over their bigger rivals. I’m a Watford F.C. fan in the English Premier League after all.
But when it comes to getting a robot to proofread my own writing, I just want the tool that is the easiest to use. I write this blog as a part of my work and I need my workflow to be as efficient as possible.
That’s why I choose to use Grammarly.
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.
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. However, if your document is intended for publication (i.e. dissertation or book) or will be read by important stakeholders (i.e. a work document), I wouldn’t put all my eggs in the Grammarly basket.
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, Grammarlyis well worth getting.
Thanks for reading my Grammarly review. I hope you found it useful.
If you’re persuaded that Grammarly will help you with your writing (as it has helped me, despite the caveats), then check out Grammarly here.