Though I have seen countless adverts online for both Hemingway and Grammarly, until recently I had never tried either of them out. It was entirely for arrogant reasons.
Every time I saw the adverts my first thought was ‘I’m too good at spelling and grammar to use one of those.’ I know! Who do I think I am?
What I didn’t realise was that they can offer you so much more than just spelling tips. Also, that I ought to pipe down a bit.
Once you have visited the Grammarly site and installed the plugin for your web browser, you are greeted with an option to set up your grammarly account and set your preferences. It all runs very smoothly and looks neat and tidy.
You are also, of course, given the option to upgrade to the paid version. I was a bit shocked to see that it costs $11.66 per month, but you never know—I may find it’s worth it after I have played around for a while.
The dashboard that you are greeted with when you sign in looks clean and fresh and gives you the options you’d expect to find:
My Grammarly: which takes you back to the dashboard.
Profile: where you can add to your dictionary (for those weird character names), change language preferences (to avoid any silly American spellings), and Account, to edit your name and email address, etc.
Apps: install links for Grammarly for Chrome (the browser plugin), Windows, and Office. If you log into your account from a different browser, it also gives you the option of installing the applicable extension.
So I have an option on the dashboard to upload a document or play with a demo document. I am too impatient—I wanna see what this thing has to say about my existing writing!
The first thing I notice is that I cannot upload .pdf files. I mean, not a huge deal…I can save my Google Docs as .docx if I must. It accepts the following files for this:
I dutifully save my document as a .docx file and upload, ready for magic to happen. Or, inevitably, for me to prove to myself that I don’t need this software once and for all.
It was sweet that I got a nice tour when I loaded my first document in. Grammarly tells me ‘Editing made easy,’ ‘Become a better writer,’ ‘Go beyond your grammar,’ and ‘Set your goals.’
I scoffed. I was sure I was above all this. Boy, was I wrong.
When you look at the screenshot below, try not to judge me too hard.
Holy crap. Nineteen alerts!
Nineteen different things that, if I trust that Grammarly is a better writer than me, I have done wrong.
(For those avid readers amongst you, you may recognise the excerpt above from my previous blog post, How I Failed NaNoWriMo and Why That’s Ok #shamelessplug).
Wiping away the tears, and before I decided to give up writing altogether, I sifted through what they had suggested.
As you scroll through the mistakes you have (apparently) made you can choose whether or not to accept them. Of course—Grammarly accounts for its own understanding of human speech. That’s something!
Grammarly is thorough in the way in which it helps you see the mistakes:
Here I have a bin icon, where I can choose to ignore this suggestion completely.
I have a little flag icon, where I can label it an incorrect suggestion or offensive content.
What I also have, though, is a little ‘more’ button, denoted by the three little dots on the bottom right.
Now I really like this feature.
Instead of just telling me that I am wrong, it carefully explains the issues behind my punctuation mistakes and why it is wrong, helping me to improve going forwards.
I don’t know about you, but I remember almost none of this kind of English from school.
So having a tool at my disposal that would help me improve my writing from a technical standpoint is very appealing.
I conceded this point to Grammarly.
But I wasn’t going to give up easily for all of them!
I came to a grammatical error. Let’s see what you have for me, Grammarly!
Grammarly highlighted the error below, with the following advice:
Helpful and educational!
Again, if you read through the advice, Grammarly is making sense. For these kinds of things, I do kind of feel I wish I had used it before!
Instead of the familiar red line underneath from Word that I remember, it is informing of me of the mistake so that I can improve in the future.
So uploading a document for assessment in Grammarly is good. I learned a few things…I am not as good at grammar as I thought. But I am happy to admit that and move on. Every day is a school day!
Interestingly, Grammarly also gave me the option to further personalise my goals for the document, which I love:
It’s time for Grammarly to correct me as I go…
I installed the plugin and dutifully loaded up my usual writing location—Google Docs.
Ah. Beta? On well. We shall proceed.
Using the plugin on a document I had already written was also great. I copied a short story I had started into a blank document and held my breath.
It came back with 11 suggestions. They were all very easy to check—you double click on the red underlined suggestion to find out what Grammarly has to say about it.
Easy, simple, and probably correct. I thought this was more of a personal preference thing, but I will bear with it.
Oops, I missed that one! I gracefully accept this.
This one here I do not agree with. I don’t feel that the sentence would make as much sense without the comma, so I shall ignore this one.
There are a handful of other little suggestion—add a hyphen here or change ‘in to’ to ‘into,’ for instance.
As well as checking my grammar and spelling whilst I was working on something specific, it also assessed my Facebook messages. I did not like this!
I don’t feel that Facebook Messenger is the kind of place that you need to make 100% sure the spelling and grammar are correct.
Twitter, Gmail, LinkedIn and Twitter are also being checked as I go—very helpful if you want to make sure your posts and connections are professional and well worded. I like that.
On the whole I feel Grammarly is a helpful tool.
There were more points during the first analysis, when I was using the website, and I much preferred the explanation that the web page gave me.
I have definitely taken myself down a peg or two at this point—let’s see how Hemingway compares.
Ooh, pretty colours!
(I am an adult, I swear.)
Very interesting: Hemingway gives you a lovely breakdown of what all the colours mean as well as the kinds of things that it is looking for when analysing your writing.
This feels more in depth than Grammarly so far. Let’s test it with the same piece of writing I tested first on Grammarly.
This feels much more focused on the sentence structure and readability than spelling and grammar, which I really like.
Let’s start with those adverbs: 52! Now, this isn’t even fiction.
As Stephen King said, ‘the road to hell is paved with adverbs’. Looks like I am building roads now…
So I can absolutely see what Hemingway is referring to.
Now that I can see my adverbs highlighted there in blue, I can see that perhaps that is excessive.
Look at this image above.
The word ‘Previously’ is highlighted in pink to show that there is an alternative phrase available. This is true.
And the whole sentence has been highlighted as hard to read. I mean, it is. But I like this sentence!
This red sentence is classed as very hard to read. There are apparently 11 of them throughout this piece.
But isn’t it just detecting as very hard to read because of the terminology used? Terminology that the intended audience of this piece would hopefully understand anyway?
So yes, there are multiple issues with the piece that I wrote, grammatically speaking.
But I don’t feel like Hemingway gives you the option to make allowances for things like style of piece or unique terminology.
This is a chatty, conversational blog post.
I need to use my own initiative to decide which pieces of advice I take onboard and which I ignore.
Which, depending on the scale of which I use for that, could defeat the object of using it anyway.
Hemingway as I go
My next step was to try Hemingway as I go, instead of just using their webpage. I apparently cannot.
There is a desktop version, that looks great, but it costs real money!
Even though I enjoy the pretty colours and the in depth explanations, the restrictions of Hemingway put me off spending real money on it.
Plus, from the pictures, it looks exactly the same as the webpage version picture before, so why would I pay more for this?
It does say that ‘You can publish blog posts directly to Medium and WordPress. Plus, you can export your writing for the rest of the web, as HTML or Markdown. Or, import and export text from Word documents.’
Personally, it doesn’t feel worth the extra money. There isn’t a plugin available either. Very disappointing.
Despite the pretty colours, I think Grammarly would be my recommendation. Grammarly gives you so much more for free, for starters.
Without having to pay anything, I can use their website to edit documents, upload existing documents for checking and even use a plugin to check my writing as I go.
Although I did enjoy the breakdown of issues that Hemingway gives you, (adverbs, passive voice, simpler alternatives, hard to read sentences and very hard to read sentences) it doesn’t offer enough.
It’s great to be able to copy and paste stuff into their website editor, but it feels like they restricted your options to encourage you to pay for the full version.
I would say that whichever you use, there needs to be an element of common sense.
If you were to rely entirely on either app, if you have no faith in your own judgement whatsoever, you may end up doing more harm than good to your work.
Grammarly, with your free help and many options, are the winner. Your (invisible) prize is in the post.
I would also admit that I discovered I am not quite as perfect as I thought I was…But there’s time.