Grammarly Review (October 2019): The Best or Overhyped?

Brad Smith


I'm the creator of this site (Grammar Gang). I'm also the founder of Codeless, a long-form content creation company that's been featured in The New York Times, Business Insider, The Next Web, and hundreds more.

We produce around ~100 long, in-depth articles each month. So we're relying on these tools on a daily basis. Here, I break down the good, bad, and uuuuuuggggllllyyyy.
Brad Smith

Not everyone is a writer.

And the English language isn’t exactly simple.

That’s where a service like Grammarly comes in.

Grammarly is a full-service grammar and plagiarism checker, with both free and premium plans.

You can run a full scan on any copy you’ve written, and Grammarly will make sure it is squeaky clean from spelling mistakes, grammar snafus, punctuation errors, plagiarism issues, and loads more.

At least, that’s what the company tells you on their official website.

Is Grammarly Worth it? Is it really the ultimate grammar, spelling, and plagiarism checker?

Or is it just overhyped and too expensive?

We’ve been a paying user for over two years, using it on a daily basis. So that’s what we’ll answer in this Grammarly review.

Grammarly
Monthly (Paid Annual)
$11.66
Best All-Around
★★★★★
✅ 86/86% accuracy
✅ 16+ billion database
✅ 150k word limit
✅ 5 device limit
✅ 1 hour response
❌ English only
Visit Grammarly
Check out Grammarly's features →

Grammarly Features

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. Grammarly:

  • 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.

Grammarly Pros +

Grammarly is very user-friendly. My hands-on testing was a breeze.

It accurately flagged 86% of the issues on our control article (that we run through every grammar checker and plagiarism tool). The plagiarism checker, specifically, tore our sample copy to shreds (in a good way).

In addition, their customer service department was both fast and friendly.

But enough beating around the bush, here are the details.

1. Very User Friendly (10 seconds or less)

Both the web-based and desktop options from Grammarly are easy to use.

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 start a new document or open a previous one.

Grammarly dashboard after signing in.

I chose to start a new document and got right to work.

It took me to a fresh page, where you can either paste in copied text or upload a file to be checked. I decided to copy and paste our sample article.

Grammarly text editor to paste your content.

We follow the same steps for every tool test.

We have a control article that is loaded with plagiarism. Like, it’s really really bad.

It was originally for a client project and we paid a real writer to produce it. Then, we saw how it was basically just ripped off a bunch of other sources.

So we use this same article to provide a benchmark across each tool to get a consistent baseline of accuracy for each.

But before checking, I set a list of goals to give Grammarly a better sense of what we were looking for in this article:

Grammarly goals to improve grammar-checking accuracy.

Your intent helps Grammarly decide which issues it’ll flag or ignore.

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 can also decide if you’re writing in a formal or informal manner, and if you’re going for a mild or strong tone.

Finally, you can tell Grammarly where this content is going:

  • General
  • Academic
  • Business
  • Technical
  • Creative
  • Casual

After you’ve decided on 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 ~10 seconds.

Grammarly has a ton of extra features once you drill down into the details. You can view them all in detail here based on our hands-on test:

1.2. In-Depth Recommendations Based on Context
Grammarly marked 14 different spelling mistakes throughout our sample article.

Just accurately flagging them is the first step, though. Grammarly also wants you to understand why each issue wrong. In other words, most checker services simply tell you what. Grammarly tells you why.

Grammarly's spelling correction with recommended words.

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.

1.3. Recommendations Can Be Tailored to You

Like the spelling category, Grammarly also highlighted a number of problematic sections and gave reasons as to why each was a problem.

Here’s one example about sentence fragments:

Grammarly flagging a sentence fragment mistake.

The issue is 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.

For example, if you’re writing on the web, sentence fragments aren’t as big of a deal. And they can help add more voice to a piece.

So you can help give Grammarly feedback to let some of these issues fly if you understand the issue and are still fine with letting a few slip in.

1.4. In-Depth Punctuation Tips

There are 22 different punctuation errors highlighted throughout our sample article.

But, once again, Grammarly rises to the occasion, correcting the mistakes and informing you as to why it was a mistake in the first place:

Grammarly punctuation issues around misplaced commas.

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.

There’s nuance in writing. And Grammarly gets that. There might be several ‘correct’ ways to write this so you have options.

All too often, grammar checkers will get by on the minimum and give you only one recommendation, but Grammarly is going above and beyond.

1.5. Helps You Write Better, Not Just More Accurately

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. That’s as true for Forbes as it is in college or writing for any old Hawaii vacation site.

Grammarly fluency recommendations to choose better words.

This is where Grammarly proves itself beyond the simple editing software of writing programs like Microsoft Word or other writing apps. 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.” So it’s factoring in parts of speech in these recommendations.

I agree with their suggestion 100%. That’s the kind of insight that you can normally only get from a human editor.

1.6. Conventions

While not many conventions were identified in this test piece, those that were made a major difference. Here’s a perfect example:

Grammarly catches a dialectal convention for spelling out numbers under ten.

Once upon a time, editors had to rely on style guides, constantly flipping through them to find conventional rules.

Grammarly, on the other hand, has all of these rules built-in. 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.

1.7. Formality -- Write 'Right' for the Context

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 unwritten “don’ts” that exist within the English language.

Grammarly formality issue with ending sentence with a preposition.

The example highlighted above is a huge no-no.

Ending a sentence with a proposition like “with” drives editors insane. Grammarly catches it and gives you the mini-lesson to cut out the bad habits.

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 conjunction like “and” or “but.”

1.8. Write with More Clarity by Writing Confidently

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.

Grammarly confidence score helps improve clarity.

Grammarly’s Confidence score helps you write with more clarity at the end of the day.

Grammarly once again goes above and beyond to help professional writers sharpen their craft. Novice writers also learn something new that will help them in the long-run.

1.9. Catches Concision Issues

Verbose, overly purple prose can tire a reader out, losing your message along the way. Concision doesn’t make writing dry, then, it boosts clarity, instead.

Grammarly catches concision issues around unnecessary words.

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.

1.10. Spots Passive Voice Issues

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 spots passive voice issues, too.

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.

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.

1.11. Helps You Improve Word Choice Variety

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.

Grammarly variety score catches overused words.

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.

2. Extremely Accurate (16+ Billion Database)

Grammarly 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.

But the bigger the database, the more sources they’ll have to pull from and match to make sure accuracy is never an issue.

As mentioned, we use the same control article to check every tool.

So we can immediately tell whether each checker is accurate or not.

Grammarly ranks at the top of that list, spotting just about every issue we had in the document.

When it’s finished analyzing your text, you’re left with a marked-up article and a sidebar on the right-hand side which lets you navigate the recommendations by category.

Grammarly sidebar with recommendations.

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, like grammar, punctuation, conciseness, and more. 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 a few of them individually.

3. Most Accurate Plagiarism Checker (#1 out of 10)

Plagiarism is a stain on the writing world.

Taking credit for someone else’s work is a reprehensible offense.

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.

Even if it’s other writers doing the work on your behalf.

We’ve tested over ten different plagiarism checkers and found Grammarly to be the most accurate.

The sample article that we used to check these programs is loaded with plagiarized 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.

Grammarly Plagiarism Test Article Results

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.

But sometimes, like in the case of this article sample, it’s not. Someone is blatantly copying other people’s work.

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 isn’t unfair in its assessment either. We also uploaded a totally original piece and let Grammarly work its magic:

Grammarly's plagiarism checker is also accurate, not flagging any in this clean article.

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.

As an aside, you should also do a few manual checks if you think plagiarism is an issue.

For example, check out the two benefits listed in this post we purchased from a popular writing platform:

Example article we purchased from a writer that plagiarized.

Then, we looked up the top ranking pages for that word in Google, and found this:

Example of an article that Grammarly caught.

Bottom line: Plagiarism is tough to spot. But a tool like Grammarly can help cut down on the big issues tremendously.

4. High Limits (150k+ Words)

Grammarly’s limits are 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.

5. Detailed, Downloadable PDF 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.

Grammarly Document Insights example from a downloadable report.

Click on the bottom where it says “DOWNLOAD PDF REPORT.” Your download should begin automatically.

A four-page PDF was generated for me, showing the overall percentages and major issues identified in my doc.

Complete Grammarly report flagging all issues and recommendations.

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.

6. Compatible with Mac, Windows, Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Word, Outlook, Google Docs, and More.

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.

Grammarly Chrome Extension can flag Gmail issues.

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.

Grammarly Chrome can pull up detailed reports.

I also tried out the Microsoft Word extension and liked it a lot. It adds a lot of these helpful extra features that Word usually lacks.

Grammarly Word integration example.

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. (They also have an app for Microsoft Outlook, too.)

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 also has extension for Google Docs. So you can now add the extension and write like normal, taking advantage of the real-time collaboration while still getting detailed insights.

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.

7. In-Depth English Language Recommendations

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 pick 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.

8. Human Proofreaders Available

Grammarly’s based service is pretty darn good. It’s already head and shoulders above the competition in accuracy and plagiarism detection.

But they take it one step further with the option for a built-in human proofreading review.

For an additional cost (quite a bit, as you’ll see), you can have a real human editor look over 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.

Grammarly Human Proofreading options and costs.

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.

9. Fast, Friendly Customer Service

Customer service is huge for me when reviewing a product. I want to make sure that my issues are being answered quickly and properly.

Grammarly’s customer support team is a delight.

Unfortunately, they don’t have a live chat function. But they do have a contact form that is actually answered pretty quickly.

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.

Grammarly support contact form test.

I received an answer right around the one hour mark. That’s amazing, considering most other services we tested took days to respond.

Grammarly's email support response from Christine.
Grammarly's full customer service response.

This was a great answer, so complete and patient. Christine over at Grammarly really knocked it out of the park with this one.

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. Perfect

Grammarly Cons –

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 really want you to upgrade to Premium. And, I’ll be honest: it’s not the cheapest option out there.

They also don’t support any foreign languages at this time.

Here’s a quick overview of the drawbacks.

1. You’ll Need to Upgrade to Get Full Value

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 you’ll eventually need to upgrade to get the full value out of it.

2. Expensive Monthly Price

Most of the paid grammar and plagiarism tools I’ve reviewed fall around the $10/month range.

Grammarly does too, but only if you upgrade to the annual plan. Otherwise, the month-to-month option will set you back $29.99/month.

I started out monthly to try out the service:

Grammarly monthly billing receipt

But have since switched to annual billing to take advantage of the huge discount (slashing the monthly price in half to only $11.66 / month):

Grammarly annual billing receipt

Of course, you can’t beat free. And they do have a good free service.

However, as we mentioned before, free services are often limited and stuffed with ads.

So you do get what you pay for this in case.

3. Only Supports English

Grammarly currently only supports the English language.

They let you choose between American English and other forms of English, such as British. But that’s about as far as the program’s language capabilities go.

So international customers will unfortunately have to look elsewhere.

Grammarly Cost, Plans, & Payment Options

Grammarly costs anywhere between $11.66 – $29.95 a month. Here’s how the plans break down.

Grammarly's current plans and pricing.

A month-to-month plan will cost $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?

Yes, I recommend Grammarly.

It will cost you. It’s not the cheapest option by a long shot.

But after reviewing over 20 different grammar and plagiarism tools, Grammarly is the clear winner across both categories.

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.

Two thumbs up.