I will shamefully admit that, even as an English Language Arts teacher, I dislike grammar. So many rules, so little time! I would spend tons of time on essays combing through sentences and looking for those comma splices, misspelled words, use of passive voice, etcetera etcetera. It was tedious work. Thankfully, one fine day a few years back, the writing gods looked down, took pity, and graced me with the knowledge of Grammarly! Grammarly is an online platform and Google Chrome extension that, in its basic form, catches all of those minor mechanical issues. It can be used for more formal writing, like essays, or for other writing such as emails or even blog posts (yes, I am currently using it for this post).
Once you have logged into the website, which is free, this is what you are met with (more or less):
The Grammarly website allows you to upload documents that have been saved on your computer in order to make it easier to complete the edits. As demonstrated in the image above, I have uploaded essays that are originally Microsoft Word documents. Documents upload quickly and easily.
Once your document has been uploaded and you begin the editing process, this is what you’ll see. The tool underlines in red the grammatical errors that are in your document. Here is the best part…
In order to fix the mistake, all you have to do is place the cursor over the “issue” and then click on the suggestion that pops up. The tool will automatically fix the issue with no extra typing on your part. If you are looking for more information as to why it was an error, it also offers a bit more detail if you instead click on the “see more” option (as seen in the bubble).
This is an assistance that further breaks down the issue, providing the option of avoiding mindless corrections. On the right, it categorizes the issues into spelling, grammar, punctuation, and conventions, allowing you to see where your strengths lie and perhaps where you need to focus on and practice more.
That is the basic breakdown of how to use the tool. It is super simple and very easy to maneuver. It allows the writer to focus more on the ideas that they are trying to get across rather than on the pesky grammatical concerns. Its major strength lies in its compatibility, especially with Microsoft Word which is so widely used, and if you use the Chrome extension it automatically corrects when you are writing while connected to the internet.
While it boasts many positive aspects, there are a few issues with the tool that I have found to sometimes be difficult. First and foremost is the limited corrections it makes in the basic version. It focuses only on small issues such as spelling and punctuation. If you pay for the upgraded premium version, then it begins to take care of more stylistic, advanced issues in your writing and the premium version also has a plagiarism checker. But all of these things come at a cost. Also, while it does provide some minor descriptions of the issues, it would be beneficial in terms of education to have links or descriptions that help users to understand the why behind the changes being made. Otherwise, it is just mindless fixing without learning. Another side note, it uses American English spelling, meaning that the corrections the site makes are not always “correct”.
While this is a tool more geared towards personal/student use, it could potentially be valuable for classroom use. In the ELA classroom, this could be used as an assistant to teach minor grammar lessons to students or could be used by students as a resource when writing. I would personally use it strictly with the higher grade levels where grammar skills have already been developed and in writing are more of a secondary concern.