Grammarly’s Grammar Checker

Last week, I signed up for the free trial of the Grammarly Grammar Checker.  I downloaded the Word Plug In (because all my novels, even the novellas) are longer than 25 pages and Saturday, I put it to the test.

I grabbed The Dysfunctional Affair.  Despite belief to the contrary, it has been edited and proofread.  Not surprisingly, there were still some mistakes and the proofreader was in a rush to get it done because she was ready to go into labor at any minute.  So, there were some things missed.  However, being me, I was fine with that because hey, we all have lives and I’d fix it later.  Also because I’m me, later never came and I gave up on going through the bulky manuscript with headphones and a case of soda with finger foods to get it “perfect.”  

So, when Grammar contacted me to try their plug-in, I thought “hey, what can it hurt?”  

In theory, it’s better than Microsoft Word’s Spelling & Grammar check.  It is supposed to catch more and offer changes in sentences to make them stronger.

I ran it… Now, The Dysfunctional Affair is just over 73,000 words.  It took eleven minutes for it to run.  486 grammar errors detected, 213 spelling errors detected and 948 enhancements were suggested.  Great, let the checking begin!  

The first fifteen “grammar errors” was “missing punctuation.”  Um, but there was punctuation.  The sentences were all these:  “Blah, blah blah and blah blah blah.” or “Blah blah blah?” or ” “Blah blah blah blah,” said the toaster oven. ”  (the extra “‘s were not in the text, they were added for effect to the post)

Just over 200 of the grammar errors were this “use a comma before but/and/or”… Fine, except not every time the word “and” is used, is a comma required.

It missed the six “than/then” errors that Word detected and suggested I fix.  It missed the two other “then/than” errors that Microsoft missed, but I detected (seriously, I know how to use these two words properly, I just don’t think my fingers do).  

It caught about 70 “I/me” errors that were sometimes correctly erroneous and sometimes not.  There were also a few that I *knew* were wrong, but refused to change because they were pieces of dialogue and the use of either “I” or “me” just sounded better.  Besides, who speaks with perfect grammar now days anyway?  Nope, leave my dialogue alone, I know the grammar tends to suck, but I have yet to meet a person who speaks perfect.

The program was also concerned with contractions or rather, my lack of use of contractions.  It’s a tick that I have.  I don’t know why, but I don’t always use contractions when I write.  I’m more likely to use them in dialogue than narrative, unless it’s Aislinn Cain speaking and then I don’t bother with the contractions, it’s a speech quirk for her not to use them.

It also kept trying to remove commas.  I found this annoying when the word in front of the comma was a “besides,” “therefore,” “however,” or “anyway.”  

It did point out every single run-on sentence, incomplete sentence and comparison issue that my novel may or may not have had.   Of course, the run-on sentences, sentence fragments and the “comparison” issues weren’t really issues, because most of them were in dialogue and the use of “which” does not always mean that I am comparing two things, despite the thinking of the program.

Oh and saving… OUCH!  I had been running the grammar check for about five minutes the first time I had to save and go do something else.  Huge, huge, huge, huge, huge mistake.  When I came back to the saved document (which, for the record, had not been closed, simply saved), I had to run the check all over again.  I emailed the guy that had offered it to me for an answer as to why this happened.  I have yet to hear from him.  Another nine minutes of my life was gone because it is nearly impossible to run through the problems while the check is running.

And then I found another glitch.  All those spelling errors that I had been saving because most of them were actually names, weren’t saved.  They came back as errors, yet again. 

However, this time I resolved to go through the entire document without saving or closing it, lest the check have to be run again and I have to teach it proper names again.

Eventually, I made it through the spelling and grammar part and began to look at the enhancements.

These were helpful.  It was actually the most helpful part of the program.  It took my passive sentences (of which there were many) and offered suggestions on how to make them less passive.  It offered word choices that were better than the words I had originally used and all in all, I found the enhancements section helpful.

The plagiarism part was hilarious.  It turned out my entire novel was marked as plagiarized.  This would be correct, as the novel has in fact, been published.  

For the average person, I think Grammarly’s Grammar Checker would be too difficult to use.  It explained over and over and over why these changes should be made, but I know the difference between a run-on sentence and a split infinitive, so there were massive parts that I could skip.  For the writer, it might not be a terrible tool.  The spelling & grammar part isn’t going to replace the need for a proofreader, but the enhancements section will help with your prose.

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