Grammarly is an online spell and grammar checker for the English language. It is available as a free and limited version and a premium version.
I always wanted to try the premium version of Grammarly but found it to be quite an expensive affair. Grammarly Premium is available as a subscription service; the lowest price, if you pay annually, is $11.66 right now. That’s $139.95 for spell and grammar checking.
I stumbled upon a deal on Ghacks Deals recently that got me a one-year subscription for $69.98 instead (with options to renew at that price), and I made the decision then and there to become a Grammarly Premium user for a year.
How does Grammarly work?
Grammarly is available as a web service, as browser extensions for Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari, as Microsoft Word and Outlook add-ins, and as software for Windows.
The core functionality is identical for each of the available applications. What happens is the following:
- You set up the service. Setup includes selecting whether you write in US English or British English.
- Grammarly checks your writing as you type, or when you paste it.
- It does so by sending the data to the Grammarly server.
- Errors are highlighted after the checks, and it is up to you to go through them to either accept the correction or ignore it.
The browser extensions work pretty much the same. The extensions add a Grammarly icon to the main toolbar of the web browser to indicate that Grammarly installed correctly. You use it to sign in to your account and to disable functionality on specific sites.
The extension adds an icon to the active form as well which highlights spelling or grammar mistakes and issues using yellow and red colors. Red indicates critical issues, yellow advanced issues.
A click on the Grammarly icon opens an overlay of the text. All issues are underlined in it and suggestions are displayed next to it. A click on the arrow icon provides an explanation for the issue, for instance, spelling mistakes, passive voice use, or that words are used repetitively. A click on the suggestion replaces the original text with the suggestion.
You may ignore any issue as well so that Grammarly won’t show it again.
Grammarly underlines spelling or grammar mistakes directly in some browsers as well. It did so in Chrome, but I ran into issues in Firefox. While Grammarly did display the underlines sometimes, it did not show them underneath the text.
You need to hover over the underline to display the suggestion and can accept the correction right away without having to open the overlay first.
Grammarly replaces the default spell checker of the browser while active.
The Word add-in
The Grammarly Word add-in adds a new tab to the Office application. A click on it opens the interface, but Grammarly is set up to check for issues even when the tab is not active. You can disable the functionality in the options.
The add-in comes with extra functionality that the browser extensions don’t support. You can set a document type, e.g., technical or academic writing.
You use the Grammarly sidebar to go through the document or click on any underlined text in the document to jump to the Grammarly suggestion for it.
The Word add-in runs checks — contextual spelling, grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and style — by default. You can enable the vocabulary enhancement check on top of that, and disable any of the checks as well.
The Web version of Grammarly supports a basic editing interface. You can paste text into the text field, upload text, or type instead. Grammarly runs checks on the text that you type or paste, and supplies you with the same set of tools to check, accept or ignore its suggestions.
Documents can be copied or downloaded afterward. The web version supports pretty much the same feature set as the Word add-in. There is one difference though: the web version of Grammarly supports sending documents to professional proof-readers. Proof-reading starts at $1.20 for 60 words and goes up to $9.60 per 60 words if you need results within 30 minutes.
Grammarly Free vs Premium
All versions of Grammarly support grammar and spell checking. Premium users get access to additional checks and suggestions on top of that:
- Advanced checks for punctuation, grammar, context, and structure.
- Vocabulary enhancement suggestions.
- Genre-specific writing style checks.
- Plagiarism Detector.
I ran into a couple of issues right away. The Firefox extension did not recognize the sign in at first. I contacted Grammarly support, and the response was quick. I was told that Grammarly needed third-party cookie support and that I should set cookie handling to “allow all” in Firefox.
I did not have time yet to investigate this further, but I plan to set it up so that the cookies that Grammarly sets are allowed while all other third-party cookies are not.
Grammarly works fine for the most part. I tested it as a browser extension, Word add-in, and web version.
I like the Word add-in best, as it does not get in your way while you write. The spinning Grammarly icon that the service’s browser extensions add is quite distracting and can’t be disabled.
The Word add-in and the Web version make it easier to correct issues that Grammarly found on top of that as these are displayed in a sidebar and not in an overlay.
Grammarly finds issues that regular spell checking won’t. That’s useful, especially if you are a writer or write regularly.
I’m not too fond of the server-side nature of the service and the fact that you cannot disable the stats collecting. Grammarly sends weekly reports to users that highlight how productive you are in comparison to all other users of the service. Unsubscribe options are only displayed in the emails, but not on the Grammarly website.
Grammarly is expensive even when it is discounted. It is probably worth it if you are a writer, blogger or student.
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