Last year, I purchased Grammarly Premium at a discounted annual rate. I thought Grammarly could help me improve my writing even though I am a native English speaker. After a full year of use, I can definitively say that it has interrupted my writing much more than it’s helped. I tried composing within the Grammarly app, and it makes many small “advanced” suggestions that draw your attention away from expressing ideas. The assistant checks your document as you write and provides yellow caution indicators for minor changes. Proofreading your content is a far more effective and focused way to fix these small errors. Grammarly is no substitute for careful proof-reading and editing of your material.
The last year of writing wasn’t all bad. I did realize one valuable benefit from Grammarly over the last year which was a quick refresher on some simple writing tips. Grammarly prods you to write tersely. Nobody has time to read the long way to your idea. It’s easy to ramble during sentence construction, which is why proofreading is vital to good writing. While writing on a computer, it’s important to capture your stream of consciousness as quickly as touch-typing allows. However, this stream is usually a diamond in the rough that needs a lot of polish before it’s ready for presentation. Grammarly helps you polish by minimizing passive voice and reducing word repetition, but it does it in an intrusive way. You can minimize intrusion by writing in another application and then using Grammarly to check for mistakes, but that too only encourages laziness.
I’m returning to good old proofreading for my writing. I found I can concentrate much better when writing and editing myself rather than being distracted by Grammarly every few minutes. The concentration produces far better results than Grammarly could help me achieve. The human-only method of writing is also much more fun. Grammarly took the enjoyment out of writing for me because I felt compelled to fix tiny errors as they happened. After all, who wants to keep writing when someone is telling you you’re wrong as you write. Without the interruption of Grammarly, I can continue to develop my idea and deeply think about it from the reader’s perspective.
What about non-native English writers? Is Grammarly worth it for someone still learning English? The answer depends on how much help is needed. If someone is very new to English, then Grammarly might be a useful tool to get to a readable state for a proofreader. However, the best option for a non-native English writer that wants to improve is to find a good proofreader. A proofreader is any conscientious reader. Proofreading doesn’t require any specialized training or skills so you can find proofreaders everywhere. Proofreading is a time-consuming process. Do as much as you can yourself before involving others.
Proofreading and editing are required activities for good writing for everyone. Before asking someone to proofread your material, make sure to do all you can during your editing. Non-professional proofreading is a favor so don’t abuse it. Thank and potentially credit your proofreader if they put in a lot of time and effort. I think Grammarly helps many writers with their process, but it’s just not a helpful tool for me. I’ve learned my lesson that I can’t buy my way into better writing.