I’d gone through several rounds of editing my manuscript. Finally, I was ready for a proofread. I’d planned on hiring a professional but decided to try “Grammarly Editor” first.
How I did it
I set up an account on Grammarly, a free process. The site is easy to navigate. Once I had an account, I clicked a button and got to work. Although Grammarly offers free tools, I paid for a “Premium” subscription after trying out the service. I wanted to experience all it had to offer.
To use Grammarly Editor, I first uploaded a document to my project page on Grammarly.com. I quickly realized I could copy and paste my document onto the editing website, which I preferred doing. Before processing my work, the editor prompted me to set goals (see “Tailored Suggestions” under “Pros”).
I focused on one chapter at a time. I’d make the edits on Grammarly, then copy and paste the edited work into the document on my computer. The only drawback to this was Grammarly would format straight quotes, so I’d have to revert to smart quotes on the computer document.
After editing a chapter, I would delete the document on Grammarly and copy and paste the edited chapter to Grammarly again. I did this to double-check my work. (I sometimes missed a typo or made one while editing.)
Human eyes get tired, but not Grammarly’s. When mere mortals fail to spot a typo, Grammarly picks up the slack.
Grammarly has a free option. This includes:
- tone detection
Under “Set Goals,” I clicked boxes under subcategories labeled Domain, Intent, Audience, and Formality to describe my written work.
The virtual editor’s setup made me feel like a pilot sitting at the controls. To the right of where I pasted my work was a bar. It gave me a score, which went up as I improved the work in Grammarly’s “eyes.” Color-coded categories rated “correctness,” “clarity,” “engagement,” and “delivery.” I could have filled out a Style guide under my plan but didn’t.
If I made up a word, I could add it to my “dictionary” so the software would not mark it as incorrect.
I’m pretty sure I never used Grammarly’s rewrite suggestions. (See “Cons.) However, by highlighting a line, sometimes the editor prompted me to improve it using my own words.
Grammarly’s suggestions are often incorrect or unsuitable.
To Grammarly’s credit, I could click a button that said the suggestion was incorrect. As well, I could shut off certain types of suggestions. This feature could make using the virtual editor easier for people who are only comfortable editing familiar typos. Examples of those that were incorrect or unsuitable for my project include:
- verb-tense change
- poor suggestions for rewriting for clarity (Check out my post on clarity.)
- add or take away a comma (Doing so could have changed the meaning of my sentence.)
- antecedent not clear (when it is)
- doesn’t take into account dialogue chatter
- Change introductory “more important” to “more importantly.” (I learned in a copyediting class it didn’t matter which. However, I have reason to believe “more important,” in this particular case, is correct. (See my post on this topic.)
Grammarly’s suggestions can make voices in a novel sound generic.
While using this virtual editor, keep in mind your characters’ unique voices. Don’t accept a suggestion that would alter them.
Grammarly’s editor can miss a typo. Once, it did not point out a typo: I’d used a single quotation mark where I should have put a double.
If copying and pasting text from Grammarly back onto the computer document, make sure quotes are formatted as you wish. Grammarly changed mine from smart to straight.
Grammarly Editor holds the potential to help writers line-edit and proofread their novels. I had a good experience with it despite the cons. In fact, they often pushed me to revisit my Chicago Manual of Style and double-check my work. I wish I had discovered Grammarly’s editor sooner. I plan to use it to proofread my blog posts. At the same time, I worry that people who haven’t mastered grammar and style might not know how to weed out inadequate or incorrect suggestions.
Grammarly or a human editor?
Grammarly’s virtual editor complements human editing but must be used with discretion. I would recommend it to a person with a good grasp of grammar and style. However, for several reasons, I’d still hire a human to proofread my novel–especially if I were planning to self-publish.
For those who can’t detect an incorrect suggestion from a good one, I recommend a human editor over Grammarly’s. A professional editor isn’t perfect, either, but will likely offer more appropriate, personalized edits and insights, making the process less confusing.
Regardless of how well a writer grasps grammar and style, nothing can replace experienced human editors and their perspectives.