1/13/14

Working toward a better blog--in which I try out Grammarly (with a giveaway of a $25 Amazon Gift Card)

I have just used Grammarly's free plagiarism checker because of my suspicion that wombats from space are stealing my beautiful words and using them in Sinister Ways.  (And if that is the funniest reason anyone puts this month, I get a prize).

But in all seriousness, I agreed to review Grammarly in exchange for compensation because I am keenly aware that my blog is not proof-read adequately; many is the time I have noticed errors in past posts, and winced in pain.  Many is the time I have read the words of others, and felt that their crisp professionalism made my own blog look a little....wilted.  Un-professional.  Run up by loving hands at home.  So I was eager to see how helpful Grammarly would be in solving (at least some of) my problems. 

Grammarly is a grammar and spell checker--you copy the text you want checked into the box, and select the style of your writing--(general, business, academic, creative, casual, etc.).  Though I would like my blog to be "creative," and though "academic" also comes easily, I decided that "casual" was the best fit.   It is incredibly easy to use--you just paste your text into the box and hit the 'start review' button, and all possible issues are clearly and rapidly brought to your attention.  As well as seeing each error with your document in real time, as it were, you can save or print a copy of the report, which would be useful for longer docments. 

The post I selected for my first try was my review of The Misadventures of the Magician's Dog.   The Casual grammar check gave me a score of 82 out of 100, with seven issues found.  It's major issue with my writing was my generous use of commas.   In some cases I disagreed-- for instance, in "Every time he uses it,  anger moves closer to the surface" I feel that the comma is valuable.  But I did take out the comma in "he risks loosing himself, and harming his family."

Next I tried it on  my review of the novel version of My Neighbor Totoro.   A 70 out of 100, with one that made me shudder:   "So the whole package is just lovely and the illustrations by Miyazaki, are charming."   I have fixed this. 

For  my final try, I ran my review of Jinx's Magic.  Eeks!  57 out of 100.  But phew--most of them were words the spell check didn't recognize.  However,  I took out a nasty little extra space, which I'm glad is gone.   Grammarly and I disagreed again about commas.  I can't help it--I like to put them in where I would pause in talking.  I think it sets a nice conversational tone.

Grammarly also has a plagiarism feature that lets you know if your text matches anything else on the web.  So not only are you be alerted to possible plagiarism that you are committing yourself, you can see if anyone else is plagiarizing your work.

In addition, there is a spelling feature that not only catches your common or garden errors but which  alerts you to embarrassing confusions of to too and two, and affect and effect, which fills a gap in most spell checkers.

Final verdict--I think this would be a very useful tool to a professional writer who doesn't have a proof-reader on hand; if I ever were to start writing seriously myself, or if I were still in graduate school, I would definitely consider subscribing.   I think it would be incredibly useful for a writer who wasn't a native speaker of English.   And (deliberate grammatical error) for as long as I have my trial subscription, I will run my posts through it.  

I think that bloggers who schedule posts in advance might well find it more handy than bloggers like me who press "post" when they realize that, once again, the kids are going to be late for school if they don't get up now.  That being said, such bloggers are the ones who might benefit most, since proofreading becomes a sometime thing.

(What I really need, though, is something that checks to make sure that I have characters' names and the spelling of fantasy places correct in my posts.  It took 10 months before someone was kind enough to point out that in Jinx it's really the Urwald, not the Urwold, wince wince.)

If you want to try it yourself, you can sign up for a free seven day trial.  An annual subscription is $11.66 a month; monthly and quarterly subscriptions are slightly more.

Final word--I have just run this post through Grammarly.   It now has three fewer commas.  Sigh.

Disclaimer:  this post was written in exchange for compensation from Grammarly.  To share that with you all, just leave a comment (proof-reading related) by midnight next Sunday, to be entered to win a $25 Amazon gift card.

26 comments:

  1. Hmmm. Since I do post ahead and am known to make horrible errors, I should probably look into this. I have trust issues, though, so am not entirely sure how I feel about a robot critiquing my work. Although, if it could spell "critiquing" properly, that would be a good thing.

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    1. Oh well, it's no more robotic than any basic spellcheck...and it's tactful too--not "you're wrong!" but 'you might want to change this."

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  2. The feature that helps with confusion with like words such as to and two appeal to me. Sometime back I wrote an email to complain about writing webinar to the company who presented it. In the email, I wrote 'write' when I meant to say 'right' Ugh! I never heard back from them about my complaint. I'm think he probably just gave them one more excuse not to address the complaint and it needed to be addressed whether or not my email had typos.

    Cheryl

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  3. Some of those commas are rather egregious.

    And I would kill for a fantasy-name checker.

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    1. I am actually rather glad to know I have a tendency toward egregious commas!

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  4. I ramble in my posts and I always notice the typos months later... *sigh* I should run a few of my posts through the free trial and see what happens. It would probably be really really bad. :) It's comments for me, too.

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    1. And I would really like a spelling and grammar check for comments too!

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  5. Hmm, I'm afraid what I'd find out if I really used it. Thanks for sharing your gift for using it with the rest of us.

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  6. I think your conversational tone is one of your blogging strengths, Charlotte! I giggled over this post - I also use far too many commas. I usually go back through my posts and remove one to two (on average) 15 minutes after I first hit 'publish.' Not that it helps overall, but you know.

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    1. I myself have never noticed too many commas in any blog, including my own, but now I bet I am going to be seeing them everywhere!

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  7. Thanks for sharing this Charlotte - they contacted me as well a while ago and I hemmed and hawed about it. Now I'm thinking ... well, maybe ... lol. I think a blog post is definitely more conversational than a scholarly piece of writing so I say that we are totally allowed to use commas any way we choose! However, I really would have benefitted from this kind of thing in grad school. ;-)

    What I sometimes (but not always do) is copy and paste the text from my posts into Word and do a spell and grammar check there. I then fix the errors found by Word directly in the original post. I do that on days where I'm particularly fatigued and feel certain I've made some significant errors.

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    1. I hemmed and hawed too, Renee--this is the first time I have ever blogged for compensation. But I still kind of regret the bookcase offer, and knew I'd probably regret this one...and it is very blog related, so I went for it!

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    2. I think you've shared good information - that's what really matters! :-)

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  8. Ah, it's always the commas! Whenever I read over posts carefully for errors (which, woe, I don't do often enough), it's always the commas where I find errors. :p

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  9. Interesting assessment! Don't know that I'd pay for the service, but it's good to know that it's out there. Have you ever caught anyone plagiarizing your work?

    When I first started my blog, I had to go back three and four times with a post to "relax" the writing. The first post I wrote, my husband looked at it and said "Well, it's fine . . .but it sounds like you're lecturing a class." Well, that wasn't at all what I wanted! I'd like to think I've found a better casual but professional style over the year. I bet I over-comma to. (Oh dear, now my brain is humming 'comma, comma, comma,comma, comma chameleon . . ." ):P

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    1. And now mine is too! One of the things I've let myself do over the years is not stick to a single style--sometimes I feel chattier, sometimes more formal. Keeps it interesting.

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  10. I think over-commaing is probably a big problem for everyone. I know I way overuse them.

    I like your conversational style, and I have never noticed an improper comma. If I were to ever see a misspelling would you want to know? I always kind of assume no (in general, not specifically toward your blog), though I suppose I would want to know.

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    1. That is a very interesting question! When I see people I know pretty well who have egregious typos (like in the title of the post, or the title of the book) I will tell them, but not if it's someone I don't "know." I think I like to be told, myself, about things that are a step up from commas, but I like it better when people email about them, because then there's not a Record of Shame in the comments.

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  11. I had never heard of this before, Charlotte! Thanks for sharing! =)

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  12. My students need this!!!

    Ok Ok so do I since I've been known to hand out an assignment I created and then see the errors!

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  13. It does sound like an interesting service. I'm not sure I could really bring myself to spend money on my blog at all right now (which is pretty pitiful, really) - and I'm also posting in such haste that I both need and am not sure I would actually find time for something like this.

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