Monday, September 16, 2013

Grammarly Pro Review

Grammarly offered a free 48-hour Grammarly Pro sneak peek that just happened to coincide with the completion of my edits on Impossible Beyond This Point. I've come to realize over the years that it's impossible to catch every error, especially when you've read the same text over and over and I was pleased to have the opportunity to check my work and test-drive Grammarly.

Before I get into specifics of my brief experience using Grammarly, I'd like to comment on the pricing structure. It's set up as a membership with a monthly cost (currently) of $29.95, but if you pay quarterly or annually, you get a price break. Submissions are limited to "300 documents or 150,000 words in any 30-day period, or 100 documents or 50,000 words in any 24-hour period." While this may be generous enough for most folks, my document was nearly 150,000 words spread over nearly 40 chapters, which may explain why I had some of the problems with slowness, hanging up, etc.

Theoretically, I should have been able to check my entire document during the 48-hour trial but Grammerly online bogged down. What I don't know is whether the 24-hour period is really 24 consecutive hours that start when you first access the service, or if it's by the day (midnight to midnight). You can also download a plug-in for Word to use without page/word limitations, which I didn't plan to do just for a trial but...

After realizing I was probably very close to (or maybe over?) the limit, I hit the cute little button that said I could download it to my computer. After that was done, I was able to check the rest of my document but still had to break it into smaller chunks. But that's ok - that's what chapters are for, right?

Is Grammerly Easy to Use?

Grammerly is easy to use. Online, you just paste in or upload your text and then wait a few minutes for the results. You can go through the suggestions right then (I recommend this) and/or download a report. The report is very detailed but much harder to read than when online. Don't get me wrong - the report is valuable, but it's not fun like the online results.

If you download Grammarly as a add-on to your Word program, it functions similar to the online version but is not organized by category of error so you have to go through them in order, just as they appear in the text. I got spoiled with the categorization online and really didn't like not having that feature. Oh well.

Does Grammarly Work?

Grammarly did catch quite a few things that I may or may not have seen during the final hard-copy proofing phase. Thanks to Grammarly, I will have way fewer corrections to make when I get the proof copies. Yay! In Impossible Beyond This Point, I'm not too concerned with run-on sentences and don't want to overpopulate the text with commas. I know - to be correct, you need a lot of commas. But I made a stylistic decision to go with the 'less is more' philosophy. Much of the book is dialogue and natural conversation doesn't include a lot of commas. Breathing, yes - commas, no. Additionally, I know you're supposed to have a comma after and or but or so or whatever you have separating your independent clauses. But here's the thing...

Although the sentence may have two parts that can stand alone (i.e. independent), if the second stand-alone sentence wouldn't exist (i.e. in real life, whatever it is wouldn't have happened) without the first, I'd rather tie them closely together instead of set them apart. Maybe it's just me. Maybe I'm wrong from a technical standpoint. But from a creative-writing/reader-friendly standpoint, I left them out. We'll see how I feel when I get the proof copy - I reserve the right to change my mind.

My Verdict on Grammarly

While Grammarly did a great job on some things and I'm really pleased with the actual errors it caught, it also flagged a ton of non-errors. For instance, it doesn't seem to understand dialogue and suggests commas in the oddest places. It also repeatedly made odd suggestions, such as:
  • drivingly for driving
  • ably for able
  • developed for followed
  • power for right
  • everything for things
  • carry for take
  • many for much or several
  • evening for afternoon and night for evening
  • must for needed
I also think I must have hit the wrong language choice when I started out because I had UK English spellings popping up, but I couldn't find anywhere to change the language preference so just ignored them.

I much preferred the online version to the Word add-on version because it was considerably less cumbersome. That being said, I did encounter problems online, which include:
  • Froze up and wouldn't let me navigate at all or forced me to navigate through sections I didn't want to check.
  • Stopped working repeatedly and may or may not fix on refresh.
  • Cumbersome to use with my browsers, but this is probably one my end (I had to have it open in both Internet Explorer and Firefox to fully use the features).
 So...would I use Grammarly again? YES! Am I going to rush out to subscribe? No. I wouldn't use it enough to warrant an ongoing subscription, but I do plan to buy myself a month's worth the next time I have a manuscript ready to publish. I'm certain it well worth the monthly subscription fee to catch those remaining elusive errors before a book goes to print.

Thanks for the sneak peek, Grammarly!!!

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