Pros

  • Holistic editing and grammar suggestions

  • Works with many services, including Microsoft and Google accounts

  • Paid features include plagiarism detection and generative AI tool

  • Can enable and disable certain grammar rules

Cons

  • Sometimes annoying or unnecessary suggestions

  • Detailed reviews are only available in the web browser

  • Many useful features are only included in paid plans

As someone who writes for a living, I wasn't too interested in downloading a grammar and spelling checker. It's true there was a lot of arrogance involved – I didn't think I needed it. I was confident in my writing and assumed that Microsoft and Google's built-in tools would catch truly egregious errors.

But in the last few weeks, I've been using Grammatically, which rightfully calls itself more than a simple grammar and spelling checker. Grammarly has features that help you adjust the tone of your writing, detect possible plagiarism, and customize your style and grammar rules. It also offers a generative AI tool that can help you create outlines and content.

My experience with Grammarly has been positive overall, but the service isn't perfect. The free plan offers good, comprehensive help, suitable for people who want robust editing without breaking the bank. But, if you're looking for more editing power or are writing in professional environments with stricter style and tone requirements, consider investing in a paid plan.

What You'll Get with Grammarly's Basic Editing Service

Grammarly's free plan gives you access to its basic editing service, which helps you detect and correct errors in three main areas: spelling, grammar, and punctuation. You will also receive suggestions for improving the clarity of your writing. Grammarly's recommendations will make your writing more concise, which I found very helpful since my sentences tend to be long. The last feature of the free plan is tone detection. However, suggestions on how to change the tone are limited to paid plans.

Grammatical offers two paid levels: Premium (from US$12 per month) and Business (from US$15 per month). They offer nearly identical editing features, but the Business plan allows for more streamlined team tools, including centralized billing and the ability to upload and manage style guides.

Grammarly is available on your laptop and smartphone through downloadable apps and browser extensions, allowing it to work with a variety of different services. When you download the Grammarly desktop app, in addition to the web browser extensions, it will automatically activate when you write in other places like email, documents, and messaging systems. Smooth integration across all my workspaces was a huge plus. For those who don't want to download another app, Grammarly works perfectly in a web browser, but you'll need to copy and paste your text — whether it's an email, blog post, or anything else — into a new Draft Grammarly document for editing.

Overall, Grammarly caught a lot of errors and improved my writing. However, there have been cases where suggested edits were incorrect or would have changed the intended meaning. I would caution Grammarly users not to blindly accept all suggested edits – take a minute and make sure they are correct before accepting the changes.

Great for adjusting your tone based on your audience

The feature I most enjoyed using was the tone suggestions. With paid plans, Grammarly can recommend changes to your writing that give it a different tone. The edits I received adjusted my writing more frequently to appear more confident, positive, and active. I know from experience that my drafts tend to be very passive, so I liked how this tool helped me spot some of these points early in my writing process.

One feature I would have liked is the ability to highlight a sentence and ask Grammarly to give me suggestions on how to change the tone—currently, you can only get recommendations for sentences with grammar notes.

screenshot of how you can set your goals on Grammarly screenshot of how you can set your goals on Grammarly

Grammarly prompts you to set goals for your work to help tailor its suggestions accordingly.

Screenshot by Katelyn Chedraoui

You can also set intentions for your work in Grammarly. All you need to do is select which “domain” your work falls into – academic, business, email or general, for example – and estimate the knowledge level of your readers and how formal you want your article to sound. . This helps Grammarly tailor its suggestions. You would write an email to your coworker differently than you would a quarterly business report, so Grammarly adjusts accordingly.

Setting intentions was a simple adjustment, but I didn't see a significant change in the suggestions I received depending on what I selected. The recommendations I saw most were flags of terminology that the general public may not be familiar with. But I found that setting goals was a useful prompt to think about my audience and how best to reach them, so I didn't mind doing it quickly.

A good but not great plagiarism scanner

One of Grammarly Premium's standout features is a plagiarism scanner. After playing around with it, I found it to be a good advantage, but not perfect.

Grammarly says it checks your work “across billions of web pages.” After scanning your text, it provides a percentage of how similar your sections are to published work, along with a link to where your existing text appears online. I tested it by creating a series of documents, some original and others containing intentionally plagiarized work, to see how much Grammarly would capture.

At first glance, it's a good all-around tool, although not always the most accurate. Below, Grammarly has correctly flagged the plagiarized second and third paragraphs. The first paragraph has correct credit and citation, but Grammarly still added a flag to indicate which part of the text – the direct quote – was similar.

screenshot of how Grammarly checks for plagiarism screenshot of how Grammarly checks for plagiarism

In this example, I added the appropriate citation at the beginning of the first paragraph. Correct grammar notes that the second and third paragraphs are plagiarized from another CNET article (done intentionally for this test).

Screenshot by Katelyn Chedraoui

Sometimes Grammarly didn't detect places where I intentionally added plagiarized sections. Grammarly support page says there may be a delay for recently published work.

To ensure you get a more complete scan, I recommend closing and reopening the document to reload the software or copying and pasting the final version of your work into a new document. Still, if you're worried that your work might be considered plagiarism, a good rule of thumb is to add a citation and clarify where the idea comes from.

Easy to customize Grammarly writing preferences

Grammarly monitors many common errors. Additionally, it lists over 45 most common grammar rules that you can turn on and off depending on your style guide, personal style, or preferences. To see this, enter Account > Customize > Writing preferences.

Grammarly's writing preferences have been particularly helpful to me as a writer at CNET, where we use AP style but not Oxford commas. The Oxford comma was a common Grammarly suggestion, and the notifications were annoying until I figured out how to turn them off. With Business Plan, your organization can upload your style guide and integrate your rules with Grammarly's suggested edits, which is useful for people who work with a unique set of style or writing guidelines.

I also liked Grammarly's suggestions for using inclusive language. Grammarly has several rules to avoid biased language and suggests more inclusive alternatives. Grammatically flags phrases or words that may be outdated, inaccurate, or disrespectful, especially in relation to gender and sexual orientation, ability, age, and human rights.

screenshot of Grammarly's inclusive language rules screenshot of Grammarly's inclusive language rules

Grammarly's grammar rules include those focused on inclusive language.

Screenshot by Katelyn Chedraoui

Grammarly: An Awesome Tool, But Take It With Caution

Overall, Grammarly is an impressive service. The free plan is more comprehensive than most of the built-in tools you might use right now and is a great first line of defense when writing. But if you're looking for more practical suggestions, especially for writing in a specific style or tone, you'll find the most value in Grammarly's advanced but paywalled features.

Language and its rules are constantly changing, which gives Grammarly and similar services the monumental task of trying to stay up to date. Grammarly is a great tool for improving your writing, especially if you struggle with clarity and brevity.

But you need to remember that your edits are just suggestions and do not replace human editors. You don't need to accept suggestions if they change what you're trying to say or potentially create false impressions. And it won't cause bigger problems with your writing like a human editor will, like suggesting structural changes, tracking trends in your writing, and ensuring your content is accurate. Grammarly will help you with your drafting and editing, but it's up to you to decide what stays and what goes.



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