Ria has been writing for over a decade now, and probably enjoys linguistics and research more than the average person.
It can be hard to avoid Grammarly's advertising. For a while, ads for Grammarly would even play whenever I watched videos on YouTube, telling me all the wonderful things it could do to help me improve my writing.
But is Grammarly actually all it claims to be?
It has to be, right? I mean, a company can't make wildly inaccurate claims without repercussions, so all the ads must be accurate. It really must be a fantastic service. And all for free, too! Simply amazing!
I'm sure you can guess from my tone that I'm going to rip the gloss off a few of the assumptions that Grammarly ads want you to make. None of what they say is a lie, but they do neglect to tell you a few critical points that should influence your decision as to whether you're going to install a new app or sign up for a new service.
Is Grammarly Really Free?
Short answer: yes. You can use Grammarly without paying them any money.
Long answer: yes, but you can't make use of the vast majority of the features the company likes to advertise.
Grammarly comes in two different forms: a free version and a premium version. The premium version, naturally, costs money. You can pay almost $30 a month to use it, or you can pay one large lump sum that works out to an average of just under $12 a month.
Free vs. Paid
The free version is just a basic spell-check—the kind that comes with just about every word-processing program in existence. And I'm sorry to say that when I tested it, Grammarly didn't even catch all the errors that Microsoft Word did. That's not exactly a resounding endorsement.
All those wonderful-sounding features that Grammarly likes to advertise, like checking for accidental plagiarism, or offering suggestions to improve your vocabulary, are not free. You have to pay for those.
This is a far cry from, "Grammarly can improve your writing, and best of all, it's free!" Yes, it can improve your writing. Yes, it is free. But those two things are mutually exclusive. If you want it to help improve your writing, it isn't going to remain free.
What It Looks Like in Use
The above picture is taken from Grammarly's demo document, showing a variety of common writing errors and how the service points them out, offering suggestions and explanations for everything. The suggestions are courtesy of the premium version; all you'd get with the free version is them telling you if you made any critical spelling or grammatical mistakes.
If your writing style is akin to what you see in the sample document, then you may very well get your money's worth by purchasing Grammarly's premium version, especially if you want to present yourself professionally or academically. As I said, it does offer good services. The ability to install an app that will check Facebook posts or emails while you type them is also incredibly useful, instead of copy-and-pasting everything into a blank box on their website before posting.
Even if you're just prone to accidentally spelling things incorrectly and are tired of doing so, that free feature might be enough to convince you that Grammarly is worth signing up for. And there's no shame in that.
I do have some more serious issues with Grammarly—ones that aren't precisely make-or-break problems but that are things I really wish were different.
It Only Offers American and British English
First, it only has options for American English and British English. Most people aren't going to see that as a problem until I point out that Canada is a real place, I live there, and Canadian English is a middle ground between American and British. Almost nothing bothers to consider having Canadian English as an option, and Grammarly is no exception. So for fellow Canadians, I hope you have the differences between Canadian English and the other two main dialects memorized so that you know when to pay attention and when to ignore Grammarly's helpful suggestions.
The Plagiarism Checker Isn't That Accurate
Secondly, the plagiarism checker is great . . . in theory. In a recent research paper I ran through Grammarly, it identified some of my writing as plagiarized. It even gave me the site from which I supposedly got my phrasing. Turns out it was a site designed to help people study with the use of virtual flashcards, and evidently, somebody had entered the the same text I quoted (properly quoted, mind) from my textbook for one of their flashcards. And thus Grammarly identified it as plagiarism.
Nothing is perfect, and I'm aware of this. But some problems are relatively easy to avoid or fix, and it's somewhat irritating that Grammarly is advertised as a wonderful automated tool when one of it's best features still requires you to manually check to see what it's even talking about.
Is It Worth the Cost?
Personally, I would say no. But I'm notoriously frugal and don't like to spend money where I don't feel I need to.
That said, I do use the premium version of Grammarly, as I get that service for free through my university. And have I found it helpful? Absolutely. It has its problems, of course (such as recommending that I've used the word "culture" too much in my essay, and suggesting I change one of them to "religion" . . . even when I'm not talking about religion), but I have found it pretty useful.
It has helped me identify when I overuse certain words. It catches some wonky grammatical stuff that I thought was fine, but my professor might have more of an issue with. Even if it can't always offer suggestions to fix some problems, like with the passive voice ("the door was opened by him" vs. "he opened the door"), it does call my attention to areas that might need improvement. It is undeniably useful.
I can't deny that it has been handy to use. But would I pay $30 a month for that use? Probably not. What I get from it just isn't enough to justify that price.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Ria Bridges (author) from New Brunswick on November 21, 2017:
I'm glad I was able to help. :) Thank you for commenting, too!
Ria Bridges (author) from New Brunswick on November 21, 2017:
I didn't realize there was a plagiarism checker available online, though in retrospect, it doesn't really surprise me. :)
Cleo Addams from USA on November 20, 2017:
I've often wondered if I should use Grammarly (as I have a subconscious addiction of putting commas where they should not be, LOL!). Thanks to your review, I'll just stick to Microsoft Word and save myself some money.
Poppy from Enoshima, Japan on November 18, 2017:
Great article! Companies do indeed word their advertising to make it sound like they offer much more than they do. The company seems to be doing very well as I've also seen their advertising on YouTube a lot.
The staff at my job are required to download Grammarly onto Chrome for work, so I have it on my laptop. I think it's OK.
Incidentally, you can actually use a plaguirism checker online for free, so you don't really need the full version of Grammarly haha.