This spring, I noticed that my undergraduates were writing much better than they had in the previous 5 years I’d been teaching. It was the first semester that I hadn’t read a paper that talked about a house when the sentence actually meant a way: “In this manor, we’ll be able to meet virtually.” More commas were in the correct places, fewer semicolons and colons were tossed into the essay in an attempt to make it appear more “professional.” Generally, it seemed that my students had discovered some way of improving their writing rather drastically.
During a class presentation, a student mentioned that she had Grammarly Premium and that this was how she was securing As on her papers for class. Other students laughed. The majority of them, it seemed, was using the free version, which was helpful, but wasn’t getting them As (the assignments aren’t only graded on spelling and correct grammar, but it does count for about 30% of an assignment grade).
I downloaded Grammarly to see how the tool worked and what advantage it was giving my students. Now, I’ve had the Grammarly plug since March, and overall I’ve been impressed with it. The plugin monitors everything that I write on the internet and offers suggestions about spelling, hyphenation, punctuation, and more. It also allows me to decide whether to accept its suggestions or not and provides explanations of the rules or suggestions as they come up.
Microsoft Word’s spellcheck has long annoyed me since several words are incorrectly prioritized in its algorithms. Misstype “perform” and Word’s spellcheck might autocorrect it to “preform” (apparently, the concrete and rebar used in framing a new construction). For most of us, it’s unlikely that we meant preform rather than perform. And Word’s grammar check is worse, insisting that every “which” phrase requires a comma or that complex sentences are too wordy.
So far, I’ve agreed with Grammarly’s suggestions for the most part, and let me say that it is no small deal for an English person to see value in an AI-based language tool. The suggestions are good and, most importantly, consistent. They are also educational because the suggestion is explained to you rather than just fixed for you. Also, you get a weekly report that gives you some stats about how you are doing. My report this week said that I used more unique words than 93% of Grammarly users, so I’m feeling pretty good about my extensive vocabulary.
Since I discovered Grammarly, I’ve mentioned it in many of my business writing seminars because my clients know that grammar mistakes can affect credibility. They genuinely want to write clearly and correctly so they can develop trust with their customers. I think Grammarly can help them do that; it’s certainly helped my undergraduates improve both their writing and their grades!