Grammarly is an automated proofreader and plagiarism checker. It corrects up to 10 times as many mistakes as other word processors (from the Grammarly blurb).
I was reading an article about plagiarism: Olive Tree Genealogy Blog: Personal Opinion About Copyright and Plagiarism Online. At the bottom of the article was an ad for Grammarly that invited me to “Check Your Writing For Plagiarism And Correct Grammar Errors Now!”
I thought I would try it, to see how well it lived up to its claims, and posted a paragraph from an article that I had written for a scholarly journal, and later placed on the web, where it was plagiarised.
Here is what Grammarly reported:
At first glance I thought it was saying that I had spelt “issue” wrongly. On looking more closely, I saw that it was referring to commonly confused words, and then thought that it was saying that I had confused “issue” with another word. Then I realised that Grammarly had made the common error of confusing “issue” with “problem”, and I take issue with that.
So it was saying that there were problems (which it chose to call “issues”) with my text, but it did not say what those problems were. It then offered me a 7-day “free trial”, after which I would presumably be expected to pay for its vague and unhelpful advice. Thanks, but no thanks.
So what is the problem with Grammarly?
- It told me that there were errors, but did not say what those errors were, and which part of the text they were in.
- It told me that there was a prob… sorry, “issue” with plagiarism, but did not tell me what it was or where it was. If someone has plagiarised my text, I would like to know, because people have done it before.
- It says it has generated a word-choice correction for my text, but doesn’t tell me what it is.
For what it’s worth, here is the paragraph I asked it to check:
In Western Europe and in North America, however, there were witch hunts in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries in which thousands of people accused of witchcraft were executed after a legal trial. In most societies, and at various times, the most favoured method of killing witches was to burn them to death. The fear of witchcraft and sorcery seems to be endemic to human society, though the killing of suspected witches seems to be epidemic rather than endemic. Terms like “endemic” and “epidemic” are normally used of physical diseases spread by germs. I use the metaphor deliberately, because I believe that witchcraft and witch hunts can be seen in theological terms as aspects of a spiritual sickness, as I hope to show in this article.
The MS Word spelling checker has flagged “witch hunts” and “societies” in this text. I know that “witch hunts” is sometimes written conjunctively as “witchhunts”, but I chose not to do so, and tried to ensure that the spelling I used was consistent throughout the article. I’m not sure if that was the word choice for which Grammarly generated a correction, because it didn’t tell me.
What else? MS Word suggested that “thousands of people was executed” would be better than “thousands of people were executed”. I chose to exercise my right to veto that one. Grammarly said there were two “issues” of passive voice. MS Word usually gets its knickers in a knot over the passive voice, but it didn’t utter a squeak in this instance.
For what it’s worth, the title of the article is Christian responses to witchcraft and sorcery and you can find a copy on the web here.
But I am less than impressed by the less than informative analysis of Grammarly, and I don’t think I’ll be missing much if I forgo the 7-day free trial. I have no doubt that my writing could be improved, but Grammarly seems unlikely to be helpful there. The MS Word spelling and grammar checker seems adequate for my purposes, and is much more informative.