Not everyone is a writer. The English language is complex and sometimes overly complicated, and if you’re not a grammar expert, you might have an embarrassing moment when turning in a written report or corresponding with professional connections.
Poor grammar can create negative first impressions, and be the make or break moment that causes someone to decide against doing business with you.
My point is, whether you’re a writer or not, grammar is important. Top-level executives need to be able to communicate with their staff and the press. Shift supervisors need to be able to write reports. Even a math teacher has to be able to properly communicate with the parents of their students.
That’s where a service like Grammarly comes in.
Grammarly is a full-service grammar and plagiarism checker, with both free and premium plans. Using this service, you’re able to run a full scan on any copy you’ve written, ensuring it is grammatically clean and ready to be presented before the critical eyes of the world.
Or at least that’s what the company tells you on their official website. But how well does Grammarly truly work? Is it really the ultimate grammar, spelling and plagiarism checker? There’s a lot of information that contributes to such a title.
Are there limitations on what you can check? How many devices and programs does it work with? Is it an accurate system? How many languages can it understand? What is their customer service like?
These are the questions that we will be answering in this Grammarly review.
Grammarly is a service that dives deep into nearly every conceivable facet of the grammar checking process, looking for everything from spelling mistakes to plagiarism to writing in a passive voice.
That’s why it’s important to take this moment to identify some of the system’s key features before diving head-first into the platform’s pros and cons.
- Checks your entire document for spelling mistakes
- Looks for issues regarding improper punctuation
- Examines English fluency and proper word choices
- Makes recommendations on your dialectal conventions, including capitalization and spacing
- Ensures that you’re using a properly formal or informal tone, including whether you’re ending sentences with a preposition.
- Makes sure that there’s confidence in your work, marking any weakness or uncertainty in your prose
- Recommends words that can be cut out, helping you to create a more concise document
- Determines how easy your writing is to understand
- Checks the entire document for repetitive vocabulary or phrasing
- Compares the document against billions of websites for common phrasing, determining the level of plagiarism
- Can be submitted to a human proofreader for those of you that don’t trust artificial intelligence. (Additional costs apply)
- Genre-specific writing checks, customizable to the type of document you’re creating
- Supports the English language. Can be customized between Amerian English and British English
There you have it. That’s an impressive list of features. On paper, Grammarly seems to go above and beyond the realm of your standard grammar checker. But saying that you’ve got these features means nothing if they don’t work.
So, let’s dig in and see if Grammarly can back up this impressive list.
I’m pleased to say that the overwhelming majority of this review is going to be positive.
Grammarly is a very user-friendly program and my hands on testing was a breeze. I found it to be accurate, and I’ll go down the list of its services one by one to prove that point. The plagiarism detection system does an amazing job, and it tore our sample copy to shreds.
Their customer service department is on point, with responses that were both speedy and informative. The system can also be used with a variety of programs on a number of different platforms.
But enough beating around the bush, let’s go in depth!
1. Easy to Use
I found Grammarly’s desktop platform to be very straightforward and simple.
After heading over the www.grammarly.com, you sign in and it takes you to the system’s dashboard.
From this control panel, you can either open a previously checked document or start a new one.
I chose to start a new document and got right to work. It took me to a fresh page and instructed me to either paste in my copy or upload a file to be checked. I decided to copy and paste our sample article.
For the purposes of this review, I’m using a sample article that was loaded with plagiarism. It is a very flawed piece that can properly demonstrate how effective a program such as this can be.
Before checking, I set a list of goals to give Grammarly a better sense of what we were looking for in terms of this article and its purpose.
Right away it wants to know your intent. Are you trying to inform, describe, convince, or tell a story? What kind of audience are you trying to reach? Are they experts in the field you’re writing about? Are they knowledgeable? Or are you dealing with a general audience, who may or may not know anything about your topic?
You also need to decide if you’re writing in a formal or informal manner and if you’re going for a mild or strong emotional tone. Finally, you have to tell Grammarly what domain your work belongs in.
The choices are:
After you’ve decided on your goals, it’s time to check the actual document.
Once I pasted the copy, the system got right to work.
I had my results in less than 20 seconds.
2. Highly Accurate
I was impressed by the insight of this program as it dug deep into the meat of our sample article and dissected it with precision.
When the system is finished analyzing, you’re left with a marked-up article and a sidebar on the right-hand side which lets you navigate your corrections by category.
See that 87 at the top? That’s our overall score. It’s saying that this copy is better than 87% of the documents uploaded to Grammarly with similar goals.
It then runs down the entire list of categories that fall under the Grammarly umbrella. The number beside each category is the number of suggestions the system has for you on that particular subject.
So, for example, there were six instances where Grammarly felt our variety was off. There were 14 different spelling corrections, 22 perceived punctuation mistakes, and so on.
I found all of the advice given to be highly accurate and helpful to the overall piece. Let’s go through them one by one.
3. Spelling Corrections
Grammarly marked 14 different spelling mistakes throughout our sample article. What I found impressive was not just the accuracy of pointing out the mistakes, but the lengths that Grammarly takes the ensure that you understand why it’s wrong. Most checker services simply tell you what. Grammarly tells you why.
As you can see, it flagged the words “come back” and said that they should be one word based on the context. It not only explained why it gave this suggestion, but it gave a number of examples for me to read through.
I have the option to either accept their correction, reject it by clicking on the trash can icon, or flag it as wrong or offensive.
I was equally impressed with Grammarly’s assessment of the article’s grammar. Much like the spelling category, it highlighted a number of potentially problematic sections and gave reasons as to why they were a problem.
The example I pulled concerns sentence fragments.
You can see the example, highlighted in yellow on the left. Grammarly then explains on the right that it is an incomplete sentence, and goes on to explain what a sentence fragment is and how one can avoid them.
I love that they continue with examples, showing you both correct and incorrect sentences.
On the bottom, you can let Grammarly know that you’ll address this issue, or that it is not relevant or helpful.
I found the majority of Grammarly’s suggestions to be right on point and effective. Definitely a good sign of things to come.
There are 22 different punctuation errors highlighted throughout our sample article. But, once again, Grammarly rises to the occasion, both correcting the mistake and informing you as to why it was a mistake in the first place.
What I love about this is that it not only gives you a mini-lesson about how to use independent clauses, it also gives you a number of different suggestions on how to fix them. You can add a semi-colon, include the word “and,” or just plop a period on there and make them two complete sentences.
All to often, grammar checkers will get by on the minimum and give you only one recommendation, but Grammarly is going above and beyond.
Fluency is so important to a successful article. It’s something writers obsess over. Finding the best word choices can be a daunting task, and sometimes a little help can go a long way. Grammarly provides that service to its users, offering suggestions and reasoning to improve upon your writing.
This is where Grammarly proves itself beyond the simple editing software of writing programs like Microsoft Word and Scrivener. Identifying fluency is some really advanced intuitive programming and I salute them for it.
In the example above, Grammarly identified that “content,” as a noun, might work better with the word “intellectual” as opposed to “thoughtful.” I agree with their suggestion 100%. That’s the kind of insight that you can normally only get from a human editor.
While not many conventions were identified, those that were made a major difference to this piece.
Once upon a time, editors had to rely on style guides, constantly flipping through them to find conventional rules. When I saw that Grammarly was recommending writing out a numeral, I was very impressed.
AP style recommends writing out all numerals under 10, and I’ve never seen an artificial intelligence program catch that before.
The other recommendation was fixing the spacing between two words. That’s something most systems can identify, but it was still nice to see a program like Grammarly catching both the everyday issues and some more advanced problems.
Formality is one of those things that make grammatically inclined people absolutely crazy. It goes beyond a formal or informal tone and into the realm of some of the most important “don’ts” that exist within the English language.
The example highlighted above is a huge no-no. Ending a sentence with a proposition like “with” drives editors insane. I was impressed once more by Grammarly’s ability to isolate something so advanced and explain it so thoroughly.
It goes on to give a number of examples, such as not using “and/or” in a formal writing piece and starting sentences with a coordinating conjuntion like “and” or “but.”
When you write, it’s important to have confidence backing up your words. You’re an expert in your field, so it’s important to sound like one. Weak and ineffectual language can soften your message, clouding your knowledge behind a wall of timid uncertainty.
That’s why I was so happy to see Grammarly address the issue of confidence so thoroughly.
I love this because Grammarly is helping you become a more dynamic writer by addressing the realm of confidence. It once again goes far beyond the realm of just a grammar and spell checker and becomes a tool that helps professional writers sharpen their craft. Novice writers also learn something new that will help them in the long-run.
One can’t oversell the importance of conciseness, especially in longer articles or stories. Verbose and overly purple prose can tire a reader out, losing your message along the way.
Grammarly combs your work for erroneous words or phrases that take away from the overall article. Wordiness is the enemy when trying to create engaging content, and Grammarly has proven itself to be a beneficial tool in that fight.
A passive voice can obscure your message, and Grammarly understands this. Whether you write 1,000 words or 100,000 words, if your message is not easily understandable then it’s worthless.
Grammarly is advanced enough to detect passive phrasing. If you’re boring to a piece of software, you know that organic minds are going to tune out.
Sometimes it’s difficult to see when your own voice turns passive, so it’s great that Grammarly has the ability to point that out. This is one leg up that the system has over human proofreaders. Passive language might slip by the tired eyes of a human being, but a program like Grammarly can tirelessly hunt down unclear phrasing, bringing it to your attention.
It’s true that variety is the spice of life. It’s also the key to effective writing.
Overusing certain phrases or words might take the reader out of the moment, causing your voice to become repetitive and lazy. Grammarly is quick to point this out, identifying overused terms and giving you suggestions on how to change them up.
As an editor, I can tell you that it’s easy to see a word or phrase pop up and go, “wait, didn’t I see that before?” Having a service like Grammarly identify them with the push of a button can make the lives of copy editors very easy for years to come.
13. Accurate Plagiarism Checker
Plagiarism is a stain on the writing world. Taking credit for someone else’s work is a reprehensible and actionable offense that the world takes very seriously.
An act of plagiarism can be met with a series of consequences, up to and including a costly lawsuit, so you’ll want to make sure that everything you’re posting on a business website is on the up and up.
The sample article that we used to check these programs is loaded with plagiarised content. A good plagiarism checker will quickly see that more than 80% of this piece is unoriginal.
Grammarly tore through it like a jungle cat on a gazelle, coming to the conclusion that 86% of this article was taken from other sources. It went on to identify 11 different sites with similar or matching content.
Most plagiarism is accidental, so it’s great that Grammarly is providing you with sources to properly cite your information. Remember, anything that is not original has to be cited, or your business could face severe penalties.
The plagiarism checker for Grammarly is not a separate application. The beauty of Grammarly’s design is its simplicity. One copy and paste gets you the whole shebang, from grammar and spelling all the way to plagiarism.
Grammarly’s plagiarism detector pulls from a proprietary database of over 16 billion websites. That’s a whole lot of internet real estate, and they cover it in under a minute. It may run slower or faster depending upon the length of the article, but it’s never a long wait.
Grammarly isn’t unfair in its assessment either. We also uploaded a totally original piece and let Grammarly work its magic.
We got a very positive plagiarism report back, citing only one fragment from one source that was only kind of similar.
It should be noted that Grammarly’s plagiarism detector is only available with their paid premium plan, and free users have no access.
14. Acceptable Limitations
As is the case with most programs of this type, there are some restrictions to its use, even for premium members.
I found Grammarly’s limits to be more than fair, and they should serve the purposes of professional writers and editors as well as most businesses.
Five different devices can be connected to a Grammarly premium account. They allow 300 reviewed documents or 150,000 words to be reviewed in a 30 day period. To put that in perspective, a full-length novel is 60,000 words, so you’re getting a lot.
There is also a daily limitation. You can review 100 documents, or 50,000 words, in 24 hours. So, in theory, you could use up your entire allotment in a three day period at the fastest, but you’d have to be putting in a lot of information to do so.
Size matters when uploading a document. Grammarly requires all files to be 4MB or less. Supported file types include MS Word documents, OpenOffice, .rtf, and .txt.
15. Downloadable Reports
Another of Grammarly’s more useful features is its ability to generate reports and export them as a PDF document.
You can start by clicking on the insights tab on the right of the page. It generates a mini report that looks like this.
Click on the bottom where it says “DOWNLOAD PDF REPORT.” Your download should begin automatically.
A four-page PDF was generated for me, detailing the percentages and major issues identified within my document.
It’s not giving exact specifics, but you know how many issues you have, how many are critical, and which ones are more advanced.
I also love that it gives you the reading and speaking time for the document. This is helpful for anyone working on a speech or presentation.
You can use Grammarly on a number of different devices and programs. They have browser plugins for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari, so you can correct your emails and social media postings before putting them up.
This is essential for social media marketing managers and business people who have a lot of email communication with clients.
I tried it out for myself using their Google Chrome Extension.
I purposely made a number of mistakes, and Grammarly made sure to highlight them. At first, I was dismayed to see that they weren’t catching my punctuation mistakes, but then I saw a Grammarly button in the bottom right corner of my email window, and when I clicked on it, my faith was restored.
I also tried out the Microsoft Word extension and liked it a lot.
Once activated, the Word extension works just like the desktop version. You’ve got the marked-up article on the left and Grammarly’s suggestions on the right.
You can customize the experience by deciding what Grammarly will check for in the bar at the top. Advanced issues, genre, vocabulary enhancement, and plagiarism are for the premium level accounts only and are not accessible to free members.
Grammarly is also currently beta testing an extension for Google Docs, as that platform has become much more popular among businesses.
At the moment, Grammarly’s pop up editor does not work in Google Docs, so it will only tell you how many issues exist. It will then bring you to the Grammarly website to make corrections.
There are also mobile applications for both iOS and Android platforms, The mobile app is actually a keyboard that installs into your operating system. It requires some additional changes in your phone’s settings but acts as a constant editing companion for all of your text messages and mobile content. It’s very helpful for the business person on the go.
17. English vs. English
While some may think that the English language is the same everywhere, there’s a huge difference between American English and British English.
For example, an American writer would write the word “center” while a British writer would write “centre.”
British English also throws a lot of “u’s” in seemingly random places. In both the UK and Canada the word “color” is written “colour.”
Grammarly allows you to state whether you’re creating content in American or British English, which should serve as a relief to writers who do business in the US, Canada, and Great Britain.
18. Human Proofreaders
Despite Grammarly’s thus far stellar performance, there are still some people who don’t trust machine intelligence.
Maybe they’ve watched Terminator one too many times and think Grammarly and SkyNet are a little too alike, I dunno.
But, for the robo-phobic among us, there is a human element to the Grammarly experience. For an additional cost (quite a bit, as you’ll see) you can have a real human editor look over and mark your work.
The link for this is on the bottom right-hand corner of the Grammarly user interface. Once you click it, a number of options come up.
They charge by the word, and work is returned in either 24 hours, three hours, or 30 minutes, when the proofreaders are available for it. The shorter the time frame the higher the per word price goes.
19. Responsive Customer Service
Customer service is huge for me when reviewing a product. I want to make sure that my issues are being tended to in a quick manner, and they are being addressed properly.
Grammarly’s customer support team is a delight. They don’t have a live chat function, which is my favorite form of customer service, but they do have a contact form that is well attended by their staff.
I sent them a question regarding human proofreaders. I like to ask questions that are readily available on the website because I’m also testing the patience of their support staff. If they’re annoyed at my question and it shows, that’s bad service.
I received an answer right around the one hour mark. That’s amazing, considering most services request at least 24 if not 48 hours for a response.
This was a great answer, so complete and patient. Christine over at Grammarly really knocked it out of the park with this one. I was very impressed.
She started off cheerfully, didn’t make me feel foolish for asking a question that is answered on their site, and walked me through the process step by step in a manner so complete I needed more than one screenshot to get it all.
That was an awful lot of pros. Just one shy of 20. But Grammarly is not a perfect system. There are definitely some cons that we have to outline.
For starters, they really really want you to upgrade to premium. To an almost absurd degree. But, as we will see later, it’s not a very affordable program.
Also, I was not thrilled with their lack of support for foreign languages.
Let’s jump into the bad.
1. Dirty Marketing
Grammarly’s free program is a good way to make some minor edits on emails and other documents. But it is limited in what it can do.
For example, it might tell you that you’ve got 34 issues and 47 advanced issues. Those advanced issues can only be seen with the premium plan, and dangling that carrot to make the end user question their work and spend money seems like dirty marketing to me.
They also advertise to their free members quite a bit. It gets to be a bit much when you’re constantly seeing ads for the premium plan.
We will go into the specifics of Grammarly Premium’s pricing in a bit, but it might prove too costly for the average student or starving professional writer. Businesses should have no problem affording it, but when you’re marketing the service on an individual level, the monthly rate can seem daunting.
Of course, you can’t beat free, and they do have a good free service. But, as we mentioned before, it’s limited and stuffed with ads.
3. Limited Langauge Support
Calling Grammarly’s language support limited may have been a bit too kind. It’s practically non-existent.
I mentioned in the pros section that they let you choose between American English and other forms of English, such as British. That’s about as far as the program’s language capabilities go.
Support is limited to English only, with no support for any foreign language. With the growth of Spanish throughout the United States, it seems odd to not include it, along with other major languages like German, French, Italian, or Chinese.
By supporting the English language only, they’re cutting themselves off from most of the world and severely limiting Grammarly’s reach.
Grammarly Cost, Plans, & Payment Options
As I’ve mentioned repeatedly, Grammarly has two plans, a free option, and their paid premium service.
If you’re interested in the premium plan, which includes advanced features like the plagiarism checker, it’s going to cost you.
There are three options. A month-to-month plan will cost a whopping $29.99 per month. A quarterly plan costs $19.98 per month, which is billed as one payment of $59.95 and lasts for four months. An annual plan, marked here as the best value, is $11.66 per month and is billed as a one-time payment of $139.95.
The annual plan saves you the most, and I think it’s a good investment for professional writers. (You can write it off as a business expense on your taxes!)
They accept major debit and credit cards along with PayPal.
Do I Recommend Grammarly?
Absolutely, I do.
Yes, it will cost you, but I think the price is well worth it for such a versatile and accurate program.
Even the free version is very useful, but Grammarly’s true potential is realized when the Premium plan is allowed to shine.
The plagiarism checker is very accurate, and I’m a huge fan of how Grammarly presents its findings. It’s more than just a checker, it tries to educate, which I really appreciate. Grammarly is about more than making good edits, it’s trying to make good writers.
I think this is a sound investment for any professional writer and editor, as well as businesses of all sizes. It might be a bit pricey for your average college student, but if they can afford it, I could see this being a tremendous tool to use in crafting the perfect term paper.
In closing, Grammarly gets an enthusiastic recommendation from me across the board.