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Let's talk Grammarly – The Bad Part 1

I wanted to do a full in-depth, no holds barred article on ProWritingAid, Grammarly, and Hemmingway editor— the three writing assistants I have used and investigated. And at some point in the future, I will do just that, but for now, Grammarly has been making my life difficult in unexpected ways, and I want to write about it.

For transparencies sake: Chucking this article into Grammarly without even reading it through once got me 44 basic alerts, 59 premium alerts, and an overall score of 58 (ouch). Still, I'm 'very clear' and 'engaging' with a "just right" delivery. I like my delivery to be 'slightly off,' it makes me feel different and special. Grammarly giveth, and Grammarly taketh away. And I’m salty about it.

Grammarly logo in red
Grammarly—the bad

Skip Ahead:

Quick summation for anyone who doesn't feel like reading the whole thing:

9 Cons of using Grammarly

  1. It's expensive. It's expensive (worth saying twice)

  2. It is relatively accurate, but it is not 100% correct.

  3. It often states style choices as facts

  4. It trends towards making all writing sound the same

  5. Limited functionality to attune it to your writing style

  6. The advertising style is very aggressive

  7. Requires internet access to work

  8. It doesn't have SEO functionality

  9. It can be a crutch

9 Pros of using Grammarly

  1. It gives you a sense and your clients a sense of security.

  2. It catches more issues than standard Microsoft spelling and grammar checks.

  3. It's user-friendly and easy to navigate

  4. It comes with add-ons. Microsoft, email, etc.

  5. It does have an "add to dictionary" function

  6. You own your work. Grammarly doesn't

  7. It reduces the editor's workload

  8. Many people like their writers to use Grammarly

  9. It sets up a writer to work with editors

Grammarly Runs An Aggressive Advertising Campaign

If you google 'Grammarly,' you are inevitably pushed to pages upon pages of top-ranking, rave reviews. Questions are asked: Is Grammarly worth it? And then answered: Yes, Grammarly is really worth it. With a whole lotta filler in-between. It's hard to trust reviews that RAVE about Grammarly like it's the greatest invention of the millennium, even harder when so many of the reviews contain affiliate links that only make the writer money if the reader buys Grammarly. I don't get it, Grammarly is okay, it's handy, it's not the best things that's ever happened and you won't convince me otherwise.

Grammarly Costs More Than Microsoft Office

Free Grammarly is worth it. Of course, it is. It's free. Grammarly premium? Well, this might be controversial, but I reckon it's not worth it nine times out of ten. It's $140 a year; that's more than my full Microsoft subscription cost. That's insane. A lot of Grammarly's suggestions are nonsense, and when I compare what I get for my Microsoft subscription, the Grammarly price tag isn't so much baffling as absolutely bonkers.

Microsoft Office Home Pricing plan as of 2022
As of 2022 Microsoft Office Home costs $10 a month for six users

Honestly, if Grammarly wants to charge this much for premium, I should get my money back whenever it suggests something wrong. That would bring my yearly cost down to $21, much more manageable.

Grammarly Pricing plan as off 2022
Grammarly costs $12 a month for one user. It's madness I say.

Let's Talk About All Grammarly's Rave Reviews

I ran through the rave reviews so prominently displayed on Google's coveted front page, and every last one of them had (at the time of writing) affiliate links or just flat-out advertisements for Grammarly. Need I say more? Some are more honest than others, declaring up front that they will get a cut if you sign up for Grammarly. Others sneak it in.

I'm not saying that they don't like or don't think you should buy Grammarly, but if you check out Reddit threads on the subject, users aren't as into it as reviewers are, which is suspect. I don't personally have a problem with affiliate links, but these reviews are straight-up shady. And the worst part is that they come across that way. They come across as puff pieces, and there are just SO many of them. For fun and laughs, check out this r/writing thread on Grammarly, even if you love the software. I cried with laughter. Tears. Real tears of unadulterated hilarity.

Grammarly Isn't Always Right And Is Often Wrong

For more fun and laughs, I took one of the top listed google reviews on Grammarly (positive, obviously) and threw it into Grammarly itself. It came up with 60 basic alerts and 198 premium alerts. With an overall performance score of 83, according to Grammarly, the correctness was 'a bit bland,' the clarity 'a bit unclear,' but the delivery was 'just right.' That's presumably with the Grammarly corrections. If you rejected that many, how many were actually accepted?

My personal favorite is Grammarly's near-obsession with 'word choice'— this is also true of ProWritingAid, but that's for another day. Grammarly doesn't like the words I chose. It disapproves vehemently. Here's the thing, if you change the word and then create a new document with the word replaced out, it sometimes won't like its own word any more than yours.

More so, I like the word I chose. When I say "exactly," I mean exactly. I don't' mean "entirely," so why are you getting on my case?

When You Put Everyone's Writing Through The Meat Grinder, You End Up With Mush.

My bigger issue with Grammarly premium isn't the price tag—although that's a significant factor, or the inundation of incorrect corrections. No, it's the sameness it's perpetrating. Yes, dear Grammarly, that is an incomplete sentence, but it's supposed to be. For emphasis! For a change in style and tone. I've started noticing what I am privately terming the 'Grammarly effect' in books I read. It's unfair because I blame ProWritingAid and Hemmingway editor just as much.

I'm reading a book, and I stumble upon a sentence, a word, a phrase that isn't in keeping with the writer's style. And I think, "That's a Grammarly sentence." Most often, it's a strange sentence arrangement and insistence on referring to the main character repeatedly to avoid the shameful, incomplete sentence. Worse still, I'm reading, and the book is written in bullet point format. Every sentence is short enough to make Hemmingway Editor glow with pride. It's horrible. And I resent it. Good books can be made bad through writing assistance.

Grammarly Is Only As Smart As The Person Using it

I'm not smart enough, nor made of strong enough to resist its siren song. The subtle pressure it puts on you to change your ways. This problem has been exacerbated recently as Grammarly is becoming more… pushy? Is this the robot apocalypse I never feared, but others seem to? Am I about to fall into a YA dystopian novel crafted by the very machine that seeks to destroy me?

Not content with a rejection of its foul ideas, Grammarly has taken to insisting. I reject, only to find the same suggestion— worded slightly differently— repeated only a few moments later. Sometimes up to three rejections are required to make it go away. And here's the worse part, by the time I get to the third pushy demand for acceptance, I often cave. I click, and the change is made. I don't know why weakness, I suppose.

Grammarly nothing can stop you now! image
Grammarly can be very supportive. Suck up.

Grammarly Might Break Your Brain

This might be the floaty creative part of me that wants to call writing 'My Craft' while sneering at the world, but being constantly questioned by a machine breaks my brain a little bit. I go quickly from, "Well, Grammarly is wrong," to "wait, am I wrong?" And then promptly to, "how does one word the English again?" It's a bit like when you say a word too many times, and it loses all meaning. I have to back away slowly from my keyboard, read a book, or (this is my favorite but also the most time-consuming) copy a favorite writer's work into Grammarly and watch the underlines of yellow and green fly.

Check out part 2—Grammarly the Good to find out why I have—and recommend— Grammarly Premium and will continue to use it even though it irritates me.


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