Grammarly: I’m Just Not Sure

Krissie is the last stages of copy editing her book and wanted to know if I knew of a way to get a word frequency list in Word.  (I don’t.)  One of the things I tried was this new app called Grammarly which is being advertised all over the place. Essentially, you download it into your computer, and it lurks in the background, leaping out at you with red lines whenever you type something wrong anywhere.  I tried it on a Word doc, thought “Hell, Word does all of this already” and deleted the app.  Except it didn’t delete.  

I’m sure if I went back in, I could figure out how to get it out of my laptop, but I’m starting to rely on it because it’s not just for Word.  Turns out, it also checks the posts I write in WordPress and, even more helpful, any comment I write in any comment box anywhere.  Given how remarkably easy it is to screw up a comment, that’s a real plus.  Plus the fixes for a mistake are easy and elegant.  

For example, if I make a mistake, Grammarly underlines it in red; when I click on the red, a box opens up and gives me three choices: click on the spelling Grammarly likes, add my spelling to the dictionary, and a third choice that offers a more detailed explanation of why it redlined your word.  So I can fix a word I’ve misspelled with one click, or I can enter my version into the dictionary with a different click (which I just did for “Jeo” which Grammarly really wants to change to “Joe.”  I’m not completely sure that part’s working, but then I did delete the app).  

As I said, I really like this.  But there’s something about having this program lurking underneath everything I do that’s a little unnerving.  Plus it really, really wants me to upgrade to its paid version (the basic app is free), and I’m just not that interested right now..

Anybody else here using this app?  What do you think?



I just got an e-mail from Grammarly (evidently I’ve been using it for a week).  They give you weekly reports which I find hysterically funny.  Here’s mine:

  1. “You were more productive than 98% of Grammarly users (30, 196 words checked).”  Well, yeah, I write for a living.
  2. Accuracy: “You were more accurate than 51% of Grammarly users (431 alerts shown).”  It’s not clear if there were more because I had more words; I’m assuming that’s a percentage.  Some of those were dozens of alerts that “Jeo” should be “Joe,” which is why I’m not using Grammarly for my fiction anymore.
  3. Vocabulary: “You used more unique words than 51% of Grammarly users (4366 unique words used).”  I think that means the number of times uncommon words were used, not the number of actual weird words.  Let us remember, I’m writing a book about demons.
  4. “Grammarly Premium found 565 additional mistakes.”  And all I have to do is pony up some cash and Grammarly will show me where I went wrong.  Nope.

A couple of other interesting things here:

See that screen capture above with “example” deliberately spelled wrong?  Grammarly caught that even though it’s in an image.  I’m impressed by that. 

I’m really getting hooked on the fix-it-with-a-click part.  No retyping anything, you just get a box with fixes; you can click on the fix you want or dismiss the box.  Speeds things up considerably.  And I really like it that I can add the word I want to the dictionary.

Bottom line:

Will not use on fiction.

Will use on comments, e-mails, and blog posts.





41 thoughts on “Grammarly: I’m Just Not Sure

  1. I think I might have that on my new computer. Although, it isn’t working in this comment box. It works in WordPress, though, which is kind of nice.

    I had a run-in with whatever program it was, though. It changed some of my stuff automatically, and the thing is, it needed to be the way *I* wrote it, not the way the computer thought it needed to be. The meaning was hugely different. I wish I’d taken a screenshot to remember what happened.

    I don’t know if I like it or not. I feel deeply suspicious, and like I need to proofread everything to make sure it’s OK. Twice.

      1. After thinking it over, absolutely. Automatic change is just dumb; I’m a fantasy writer and I like dialectal brushstrokes. “Really, darling, zis is just too much” on first meeting a character sort of thing.

        What I need is something that reminds me to check stuff after I’m done.

        BTW, “zis” got red-lined in this post. I have to have had something really weird on that post that got changed automatically (I wondered if it was one of those participle thingies that got changed, but it didn’t do anything to that awkward “have to have had” phrasing, so I’m really at a loss about what changed automatically).

        I just bought a new computer, and whatever it is, came on the new computer. In Japanese, I’m pretty sure. Sigh. I’m semi-literate in Japanese, with only a fifth-grade (if that) reading level, so I’m not looking forward to the challenge of figuring things out.

  2. I tried it because a friend said it was good for picking up the form instead of from type errors. So tried running a copy edited manuscript I was proofing through it. Hated the fact you had to upload chunks at a time as it can’t handle a novel and I thought about 90% of what it suggested was wrong including some weird tense stuff so not convinced it’s great for fiction. But I know people who use it for work and study stuff and like it.

  3. I’ve been using it for a little while. I like that I can always tell it no 🙂

    I’m actually recommending it for my students because it will tell them “why” their grammar is atrocious. Plus style, mechanics, and spelling get addressed. Some of our English faculty are requiring it for their students in lieu of the textbook.

  4. I know I’m probably not the person to say this because you know…I am a copyeditor, but nothing beats a real human copyeditor for copyediting. Programs like that don’t always get context. I never trust Word’s suggestions, but the red lines and green lines do make me stop to take a look and that’s not a bad thing. Sounds like Grammarly does the same thing. If it’s free and you like it better than Word’s own features, it might be worth trying.

    1. I would not use it for fiction, that’s too idiosyncratic. But for catching typos and screw-up in comments like this one, I like it.

      And honestly, the value of a human copy editor depends on the quality of a human copy editor. I’ve had humans add atrocious things to my books and had others that were just sloppy. The great thing about a program is that it’s a robot; it doesn’t think it can write better than you can, and it catches everything by rote and then lets you decide what to do with it.

      OTOH, a really good human copy editor is worth her weight in gold.

    1. Me, too. It’s the informal stuff where it’s really useful: comments, e-mails, Word Press posts, etc.

  5. For determining word frequency in Word, I do a “find” (shortcut: ctrl F).

    My version of Word shows how many times the word appears in the document, and on what pages. Unless, of course, it’s a word like “the,” in which case Word gives up.

    You have to do this one word at a time, so it may not be what Krissie wants – but it’s still helpful. I keep wondering how writers survived using manual typewriters.

    1. Also, Googling shows there are tools and add-ins available – I searched “word frequency counts in Microsoft Word.”

    2. What we both wanted were Word Frequency Lists, you know, the ones that start with “the” and “and” which you can specify to be ignored. Every writer has word tics and those lists are a good way to catch them. For fiction writers, they’re a good way to keep from flattening characters: if every character has the same word tic, you need to delete those from all but one character, unless the other characters are picking up that tic.

      I do use the Find function for “just,” “very,” and “ly” words. Hi, I’m Jenny and I’m an adverb whore.

      1. Googling “Word frequency counter” is coming up with several free online things, but they mostly seem to be done in chunks, not a full-novel input thing.

        1. There are apps, but then I have to maintain an app. I have enough stuff on this laptop.
          I should write Word and say, “Yo, word frequency lists.”

  6. I added more info to the post because I got an e-mail from the app analyzing my usage this week. It was funny but also illuminating. I’m thinking I’m keeping this for everything except fiction.

  7. “it doesn’t think it can write better than you can”

    I always feel Word does think this……. after snarling “I’m using passive voice for a REASON, damn you” multiple times, I turned off automatic suggestions.

    Of course, I don’t write for a living, and my boss micromanages emails anyway, so I don’t need another entity suggesting edits to me.

    1. Oh, I turned off the suggestions a lot time ago. The thing about human copy editors is that sometimes they just go ahead and make the change and then you have to catch it when they send it back. There are italics in Welcome to Temptation that still make me scream. Dumb ass copy editor, I hate her with a burning passion.

      Since then, my editor gives strict instructions not to change anything, just put a note in the margin. Thank God. I had one copy editor who tried to change the meaning of a sentence that delivered the damn theme because she did not understand chaos theory. STAY OUT OF MY NARRATIVE, BITCH. I hate people who change my words. I left Harlequin because of that. Tell me what’s wrong, and I’LL fix it.

      I may have some issues with copy editors. But the good ones are priceless.

      1. Ack! A CE who made a drastic change without querying??? No, no, no! Always query, always. If a CE doesn’t respect the writer’s words, who will? An author’s words should never be changed without giving a damn good reason why and asking, “Edit okay?” As for author voice–read the freaking manuscript, figure out your author’s voice and then leave it eff alone. Unless it’s just truly crappy writing or absolutely does not make sense as written, then you speak to the PE. Otherwise, fix the spelling, fix the grammar, fix the punctuation, make sure everything is in the correct tense and person, watch out for echoes, and run-ons, watch out for anachronisms, and bad facts. Point things out–don’t start wholesale switching up words. And most of all, be nice. My rules for copyediting.

  8. I do use Grammarly for fiction, but I ignore most of the suggestions. It does help with commas, periods, and some misspellings. I apparently have an aversion to using periods. I had an addiction to just, very, as, little and that. I’ve never been able to find a frequency word program that works. I use my editor’s lists with ‘find’ in Word. Long and labor intensive, but worth it.

  9. If you look under word cloud / tag cloud you can get a graphic of frequently used words .. is one.

    It’s not solely a word frequency counter but it might help.

  10. I was wondering why the poem in your other post today (which I read first) had some words in read and underlined. This explains it. But I also found it distracting, so I guess I’m maybe a “no.”

    1. Wait, that makes it into the post?


      That’s something to do with the OED, not Grammarly. How the hell did that get in there? (It doesn’t show up in the text on the dashboard. Thanks for catching that.)

  11. I’ve seen the adds for Grammarly, but probably won’t use it, mainly because I already have enough of a problem convincing the spell checkers that I use Australian English, thank you, with all of the systems and devices that I use. I get red underlines or automatic spelling changes when I use a perfectly correct word for Aus english, but not for US english.

    I figured out that I needed to change my keyboard for my iOS devices, but Microsoft products? Practically impossible to get it to keep the changed language.

    It’s incredibly frustrating.

    1. Yes, I’m forever having to tell Word that every single paragrapg in a file is UK English – given less that half a chance (i.e. an author inserting a bit of text) it reverts to ‘normal’ US English, whatever I’ve done to set the language.

      It’s also frustrating that neither Word nor Scrivener can be set to accept z-spelling in UK English, which is house style for many publishers here (realize not realise; but analyse not analyze).

  12. FrameMaker will produce a concordance file, which is exactly what Krissie wants, but she probably doesn’t want to buy desktop publishing software 🙂

    I love FrameMaker – you can also produce a list of all of a specific style; for example, tag everytime a particular character speaks with their own tag, then generate a file of that. Great way to fix inconsistencies.

    If you run it under Unix, even if your system crashes, it remembers everything except the last keystroke. Sigh…

    However, it’s not cheap, and the learning curve isn’t as fast as Word, although once you’ve figured it out it’s great for both writing and publishing.

    1. That crash recovery sounds miraculous. Word stopped recognizing manual saves (unless it’s in the mood) years ago. If I’m working on a long text, especially one with illustrations which will therefore be unstable, I have to keep closing the file in order to force Word to save, so I can be sure I won’t lose more than half an hour’s work. I would love to be liberated from Word!

        1. Jane, I feel your pain! When a client wants a document that has 400 tables, and a section break after each one – and it constantly falls apart – it is so frustrating when you have to use the wrong tool.

          I’m currently a business analyst, but I spent decades working as a technical writer, and I still write a lot of large documents.

          A tip for anyone working with Word – due to dodgy code, you can end up with a huge number of temp files if you work all day on a Word document. If you have problems with it crashing in the afternoon (or late in the session, depending when you work), try saving and completely shutting down Word half way through. The temp files should disappear. Open it again, and it should be OK for another few hours.

          I have other tips, but that’s a good basic one.

  13. I run my freelance articles through Grammarly,, Hemingway Editor, and ProWritingAid (all free versions) before I have a human proofread them. It helps me find the silly mistakes that I don’t want to waste a human’s time with. Plus, I’ll admit that having it point out where I have really long sentences helps me break them up before I submit my articles. They’re not perfect, but they’re super useful for me.

    I hadn’t thought about whether or not to use them on my fiction attempts…

  14. I installed Grammerly a few months ago in my browser. I like it. I find it helpful and I don’t care enough to buy the premium level.

    I’m taking a business writing class through Udemy (I’m expected to publish, ugh.) and the teacher recommended 4 tools… (this will put me into a holding cell because 4 links) – “Offers suggestions for making your writing punchier and more powerful.” – Drivel Defence – a great way to get a sense of how long your sentences are. – Gunning Fog Index – this tool measures sentence and word length to give you an overall readability score. Anything over 12 is considered hard to read. – Writer’s Diet – a fun tool that diagnoses your writing from ‘fit and trim’ to ‘heart attack territory’

  15. I’m working on several pieces of crochet because I have a SQUIRREL! problem, but I realized last night, one of them is a lace shawl with a B hook and the other is a jacket (maybe) with jumbo yarn and a Q hook. So gotta get a picture of that up. And I revised more Nita and did word clouds on the four parts of Act One, so I’ll post on that on Friday.

    I’m working, I swear.

    1. That’s what I use for my own projects – although I find the formatting on the iOS app pretty frustrating. It is good to be able to add notes and ideas on my iPad and have them sync via Dropbox to the full program on my Mac.

  16. I use grammar at work in my browser (teaching high school English) and have had students use it with essays, but I haven’t tried it with fiction yet. The paid version will apparently tell you about patterns too, which could be very helpful for 9th graders… Mine this year see particularly weak writers. :/


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