How to Use Grammarly to Improve Your Writing
Do you ever miss going to school?
I do. At the beginning of September, everything reminds me of when I used to buy new pens and notebooks and head back to school.
While I don’t miss the routine and duties (I surely don’t miss getting up early), what I do miss is the intensive learning. I miss the days when I could hand in some work, get helpful feedback, and get better every day.
When a teacher tells you what to improve, you can feel the weight being lifted off of your shoulders; your confidence grows, writing seems easier, and you get your message across exactly the way you need.
In your adult entrepreneurial life, a writing coach or a skillful editor can do that job for you. With the right kind of feedback, you get the results you need. And in business writing, results mean fans, subscribers, and of course, clients.
But what if you aren’t ready to work with a writing coach? How can you get feedback on your writing? Is there a way to learn from your own mistakes? A way to see if (and how) your writing is getting better?
The answer is yes, there is a way to do that.
Although no robot can compete with a human coach or editor, Grammarly is a software that does an excellent job correcting your mistakes and looking after your online reputation. But it does more than just that. If you take advantage of all its features, Grammarly can help you improve not only your writing but also your writing skills.
Disclaimer: This post includes affiliate links, meaning that if you happen to click the link and then sign up or buy, I will get a commission (at no extra cost to you).
This post is from 2016, some Grammarly features may have changed.
What is Grammarly?
Grammarly is a grammar-checking app that exists in the form of a text editor and a browser extension. The app is free, with the option to upgrade to a premium paid plan.
Grammarly Editor looks and works a little like Google Docs. Your documents, with all of Grammarly’s comments and suggestions, stay in the cloud, and you can get back to them anytime:
Inside the editor, Grammarly checks your writing for over 150 types of errors with a free plan, and over 250 types with a premium plan.
The browser extension does the same, without the need to copy and paste everything you write to the editor. You just stay where you are – on Facebook, Gmail, LinkedIn, WordPress, and so on – and Grammarly underlines all the mistakes and suggests changes.
From Facebook: The green circle indicates that Grammarly is looking for my spelling and grammar.
Grammarly Free Plan: Get Your Spelling and Grammar In Shape
With the free plan, you can access both the editor and the browser extension. Here’s what Grammarly does for you for free:
☆ The app marks all “critical issues” – major grammar, spelling, punctuation, and stylistic mistakes – in green and recommends changes. It also shows you the number of “advanced issues,” but doesn’t tell you what those issues are.
You know they are there. You know how many. But you don’t know where exactly or how to fix them.
In other words, the free version of Grammarly corrects all the fundamental errors, but when it comes to advanced mistakes, such as weak expressions, overused words, or split infinitives, the only thing you know is the number of such issues in your document.
☆ Every week, you get your Weekly Progress Report & Tips into your inbox. In the email, you find:
Activity: number of words you wrote
Mastery: number of corrections Grammarly made
Vocabulary: number of unique words you used
As you can see, Grammarly compares the results with your past results and with other Grammarly users.
You also get:
Your top three grammar mistakes with a link to a detailed explanation
Weekly writing tip
The free plan is a powerful tool that has your back and looks after your online reputation like an omnipresent proofreader. It also keeps you motivated by sending you reports every week.
But, if you want Grammarly to do more than just correct major mistakes, you need to invest. I can guess your question, so here’s the answer: With a yearly plan, the investment is $11.66 a month. Let’s see what’s inside.
Grammarly Premium: Level Up Your Writing Skills
With the premium plan, you get everything in the free plan, plus:
You can finally see what those mysterious yellow numbers that used to drive you mad on your free plan are referring to.
If you’re using Grammarly for free, I bet you’re dying to know what your “advanced issues” are. Well, there’s no way to find out other than paying for Grammarly Premium. But because it’s you, I’ll show examples of my “advanced issues” to give you at least some idea:
- Incomplete comparison: “I was happier” is an incomplete comparison. “I was happier than before” is true (complete) comparison. In conversational writing, incomplete comparisons are okay.
- Split infinitive: “You don’t have to always be the best” vs. “You don’t always have to be the best.” In formal writing, you shouldn’t split the to-infinitive to be. Again, in informal writing, you can do it if it makes sense.
- Unclear antecedent: “Imagine your friend (…) Would you tell her it’s because she’s lazy?” It may be unclear who the pronouns her and she refer to. Your friend? Someone else?
- Other advanced issues include things like confused prepositions, the passive voice, wordiness, and of course, commas.
Vocabulary Enhancement Suggestions
Say goodbye to overused, repetitive, and weak words:
Repetitive words make you sound robotic and boring, but they’re also difficult to spot in your own text. In the screenshot above, you can see that I used the verb “tell” three times in one paragraph. I re-read the article so many times, but I didn’t see it.
You don’t have to come up with a different word yourself, and you don’t even need a thesaurus. Under the arrow that says “more,” you can find synonyms.
Examples of overused words are adverbs, such as very, really, and extremely. You use them to make an impact, but the effect is the opposite. The same goes for weak adjectives (really bad instead of appalling, awful, or terrible). Grammarly is stubborn about forcing you to think of better ways to express yourself, and that’s how it helps you break your bad habits and sharpen your writing.
Genre-Specific Writing Style Checks
This feature, together with advanced issues and vocabulary enhancement, is what makes Grammarly Premium worth the price tag.
I’ve heard many bloggers complaining that they have to turn grammar check off in their word processors. The trouble is, most apps don’t let you write in a conversational style and annoy you by underlining contractions and other “mistakes” that are fully acceptable, even desirable, in informal writing.
In Grammarly, you can choose the document type. Knowing the difference between an academic paper, a blog post, and four other document types (and subtypes, together 30 genres) is Grammarly’s superpower.
Downloading your articles with all of Grammarly’s comments on your critical and advanced issues in the form of a PDF feels like getting your paper annotated and marked by a teacher. You even get a score to see how you’re doing (more on that later).
Grammarly doesn’t let you risk your reputation by accidentally stealing someone else’s words. The app finds paragraphs that have already appeared somewhere on the web and shows you how to cite the source properly.
This feature sounds like something academic writers need more than bloggers, but make no mistake here. If you aren’t familiar with the rules of online publishing and aren’t sure how to quote someone else’s work, your blog looks amateurish, and you may even be breaking the law.
Microsoft Word Integration
If you prefer to work in Microsoft Word, you can replace the built-in grammar check with Grammarly (for Windows users only).
You can read more about the Premium Plan and pricing here: Grammarly Premium
How to use Grammarly to improve your writing: 10 tips for bloggersAre you using Grammarly to its full potential? Check out this Grammarly guide for bloggersClick To Tweet
1. Use Grammarly at the right stage of your writing process
Writing and editing at the same time is a bad idea. Instead of writing in Grammarly Editor, write the whole post in Google Docs, Word, or any other writing software with the grammar check off. Edit it yourself, and then copy and paste the almost-finished post into Grammarly Editor to make final adjustments.
This way, you’ll write faster, be more creative and less stressed, and your writing will sound more like you.
2. Use the right language
In Grammarly, you can choose to write in British or American English.
Many non-native speakers mix British and American spelling (I’m guilty as charged). Grammarly makes sure your grammar and spelling are consistent.
3. Use the right document type (only for Premium plans)
To get the best results, choose the right document type.
I use the personal blog post option, although my blog is a business one and I write about marketing. There’s no reason a blog about marketing should be formal or boring.
Try different document types and figure out which one works best for your blog.
4. Don’t assume Grammarly is always right
You’re a creative person with a unique voice, ideas, and goals. Grammarly is just an app. It knows nothing about you, your readers, or what you’re trying to achieve, so don’t accept all of Grammarly’s suggestions automatically.
Grammarly is not always right, and even when it is, the rules for bloggers aren’t as strict as those for academic or corporate business writers. Read the feedback and decide if you want to make any changes. Your voice has precedence over everything else.
5. Study the feedback
Of course, many of the mistakes Grammarly points out are worth your attention.
Every time Grammarly corrects you and you aren’t sure why, read the explanation and the example sentences carefully. Google the issue and read more on the grammar you don’t understand.
In your report, study your top three grammar mistakes. Click the links, read the articles, and try to avoid the mistakes next time.
The Premium Plan does an excellent job drawing your attention to the things that make your writing weaker: the passive voice, adverbs, weak words, overused phrases, and so on.
This way, Grammarly can make your writing more powerful and train you to be a better writer.
6. Don’t play the numbers game
Let go of perfectionism and don’t try to aim at a score of 100 and 0 mistakes. It would do more harm than good to your writing.
Grammarly can’t really measure your writing skills. Nothing and nobody can!
We bloggers are obsessed with numbers. But in fact, your writing score, the number of “issues”, as well as the number of likes and shares – those are just numbers. They say nothing about the quality of your writing or your success.
If your blog post helps one person somewhere in the world, isn’t that a huge success? The way you feel when you write, the way you make your readers feel, these are things no app can understand or measure.
The only number you should care about is the number of words you’ve written. This way, you can keep track of your commitment to writing. And because your commitment is the only thing that’s 100% under your control, it’s the only way to measure success.
7. Set goals
The meaningful ones, that is.
Writing is a habit, not an art, says Ann Handley, author of Everybody Writes. In the book, she also suggests setting goals based on word count, not time spent writing (let alone Grammarly score, or things that are out of your control, like the number of likes and shares).
If you’re new to blogging, set a realistic word count goal. It’s different for everyone, but you can start at, let’s say, 200 words a day. Can you do that?
As soon as writing 200 words a day gets easy, raise the bar to 300 words, and keep adding until you can produce your desired word count in one sitting without getting too sweaty.
Grammarly can help you make writing a habit by keeping the statistics for you. When you archive your old reports, you can see how the number of words you write every week grows.
8. Share Your Results
If you’re the kind of person who needs accountability, share your goals and your results publicly – tweet it, share it in a Facebook group, or find a writing buddy.
Also, Grammarly reports are easy to share. You can do it with just one click.
9. Join the community
When I said that Grammarly is just an app with its algorithms, it wasn’t the whole truth. There are real people behind every app:
Grammarly Answers is a place where you can ask (and answer) questions about English grammar or writing, for free.
Grammarly Blog is where you can read about and discuss the topics grammars nerds geek out about – English language, grammar, spelling, learning, literature, and more.
(By the way, on Facebook, the number of fans is over six million. That’s almost scary. I mean, I never thought there were so many grammar geeks!)
10. Don’t Rely on Robots
I have to stress this once more: Grammarly is just a tool, so when using it, always rely on your own knowledge, experience, creativity, and gut feeling.
Here’s a list of things Grammarly can’t do:
✯ Teach you English: Grammarly can help you even if English isn’t your first language, but only if you already have a good grasp of grammar, and you know what you’re doing (in other words, you’re at an intermediate level and above).
✯ Do the hard work for you: Obviously, the app can’t write the post for you, and its editing abilities are limited, too. You still have to put a lot of work into it – or hire someone to do it for you.
✯ Turn a bad piece of writing into a great piece of writing: If your post is good, Grammarly can take it to the next level. But if it’s poorly written, there’s nothing Grammarly can do for you.
✯ Improve readability: Grammarly underlines long sentences, the passive voice, weak expressions, and other things that make your writing clumsy. But readability means more than that. Using a tool like the Hemingway app together with Grammarly can help.
✯ Improve SEO (search engine optimization): Grammarly doesn’t like when you repeat yourself, and forces you to be more creative with words. It doesn’t care that you’re using certain expressions to make it easier for Google to find your blog. If you’re on WordPress use Yoast SEO to help you – it’s free.
✯ Help you find your voice: I would even say running your posts through Grammarly is a little risky when it comes to using your voice. Robots don’t understand humor, rhythm, words that aren’t in a dictionary, and other things you may want to use to make your posts sound more like you. In that case, ignore Grammarly’s suggestions and use your voice. Because your voice is your brand.
✯ Guarantee your writing is 100% error-free: If you don’t trust your own editing and proofreading abilities, hire someone – a real person – to proofread and edit your work. I don’t think a regular blog post must be perfect, but when it comes to a guest post, an important post on your own blog, or something you want to sell, I’d always suggest hiring an editor.
To finish, here’s a summary of what Grammarly can do:
- Save your reputation by correcting major mistakes every step you take online
- Keep you motivated by sending you reports
- Make writing a habit
- Help you identify and fix your most frequent mistakes so you can get rid of them once and for all
- Keep you safe from accidental plagiarism
- Grow your vocabulary
- Break your bad habits
- Make your writing more compelling
- Build your confidence
- Write more and enjoy writing more
✯ What do you think, will you try Grammarly? If you haven’t tried it yet, you can register here (for free).
P. S. This post contains 2936 words, 10 critical issues, and 15 advanced issues. My score is 95 of 100.
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