Book Publishers Northwest was recently contacted to test Grammarly, a website that serves as a type of line editor. It’s an interesting idea. Upload your document … or one sent to you by an author … check it for basic grammar, spelling errors, and possible plagarism. (Yes, we know the word in red is misspelled, read more to learn why).
Unfortunately, when testing the most basic function, the ability to paste or upload a document into the Grammarly window, we could not get it to work. According to Grammarly’s instruction page, once logged in, you should be able to use ctrl-C and ctrl-V, or drag and drop your document. All of these failed for us. Perhaps because we work on a Mac. Perhaps we were just a little clueless. We may not have enabled our test account correctly.
However, being fast copy typists, we decided to test out a few basic paragraphs rather than keep struggling with the tech issue. Apparently we are excellent typists. We received scores of “100% accurate.”
So we turned to the Bard of Avon as a good test of anyone’s command of the English language. We used the sentence: “Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of York.”
When surrounded by quote marks, Grammarly treated it as a quote and made no corrections. Nicely done, Grammarly!
When not surrounded by quotes, Grammarly gave the Bard a few pointers and took task with some possibly improper word choices. Alas, poor Bill.
The program failed to recognize the quote as being from Shakespeare or possible plagiarism. Possibly because we typed it as a complete sentence, rather than using the usual breaks for Shakespeare’s speeches. Apparently removing the “;” from the middle and making “made” lower case was enough to slip this by the Grammarly plagiarism police.
So then we re-typed this review onto the Grammarly test page with a deliberate spelling error (marked in red above) in our first paragraph. Here’s how Grammarly scored it as a “Business” article:
6 issues found.
Score: 78 of 100
Here’s an example of the errors cited:
Grammarly caught our deliberate spelling error in the first paragraph: plagarism (we note that Word and WordPress also caught this error)
Another good catch was Grammarly’s questioning of how we presented “ctrl-C” and “ctrl-V” and it suggested:
ctrl ( Ctrl, Carl, curl, Ctrl-C, caul ) -C, ctrl ( Ctrl, Carl, curl, Ctrl-V, cirl ) -V,
Editor’s note: We like the idea of a “caul-C” button. Sounds like something the Witches of Macbeth would use. Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V would be a good style choice for a business article.
We disagree with Grammarly’s dismissal of “took task” as needing review for “article use.” Grammarly doesn’t like this phrase and suggest we write it as “took the task” or “took a task.” That phrase could be corrected to “took to task” but not “took a task” as far as we are concerned.
So does this website replace a human being as a line editor? Probably not. A good line editor is more than a spell checker and can adjust her editing to a house style.
But, if you can get the paste or upload function to work, Grammarly offers a quick way to review for the basics if you are not satisfied with the grammar and spell checks that come with your word processing software.
For publishers of nonfiction, or even fiction, doing some quick plagiarism checking could save you some grief down the line. Although it’s not foolproof and you still need to be able to trust your authors to be writing their own works, not copying someone else and hoping to get away with it.
Grammarly offers a variety of subscription plans. Prices range from $29.95 for a one-month only use to $139.95 for an entire year. For someone looking for a quick first draft check when preparing or reviewing a manuscript for possible publication, this might be a useful web tool.