The Legacy of Errors: Grammarly Fails to Deliver

Grammarly is simply not good enough to trust.

Last week, I felt compelled to do something I have never done before – pull one of my books off the market.  As it was, it simply had too many mistakes to leave available.  Why?  Well, of course I’m always responsible for errors, but in part, it was Grammarly.

We’ve all seen the commercials; they carpet-bomb YouTube and other popular video sites.  Many show someone writing a paper for school, for example, and Grammarly gives them all kinds of advice.  They fix the paper just as Grammarly suggests, and they get an A+. 

The message conveyed by these ads is that Grammarly isn’t going to miss much.  The insinuation is that you’re not going to walk out of class with a paper that says in harsh, red ink “Proofread your work!” with a C minus as a grade.  Yet, that was exactly the situation I felt Grammarly left me in with The Legacy of Aris.

In reviewing The Legacy of Aris, I dropped two major edit steps in favor of its promised prowess.  However, when I used my “text-to-speech” program to listen to Enemy Deity, I converted The Legacy of Aris just to enjoy it later.  I started listening to it, and I was appalled.  The very next evening, I pulled the book off of Amazon.

No single editing tool will catch everything, and I didn’t hold that unrealistic expectation of Grammarly.  However, here are the possible mistakes Grammarly didn’t alert me to, and the misses can be counted in the hundreds:

  • Missing articles (i.e. a, an, the)
  • Missing prepositions (i.e. “hallways ahead ON the left”)
  • Missing quotes (i.e. a closing quote with no opener, or vice versa)
  • Missing verbs (i.e. that WAS ready)
  • Misplaced possessives (i.e. Charlie’s flew as opposed to Charlie flew)
  • Missing conjunctions (i.e. and, or, but, etc.)
  • Misplaced articles in front of proper names (i.e. THE Fred, or THE Susan)

Although there are more, I’m going to stop there because you get the picture.  As a programmer by trade, I see these as simple syntactic mistakes and oversights, but likewise, given the number of times Grammarly warned me of other, more esoteric things, a warning for these would have been a reasonable expectation.

What did Grammarly detect?  It has a spectrum of items it pays attention to with admirable if even irritating fixation – passive voice, split infinitive, uncertain pronoun reference.  For these and a few others, it hovers over you like an OCD English teacher hyped up on too much latte.  That is, it does this when it finally starts returning answers.  Grammarly doesn’t scale very well to large works, and once I turned it on, I had to go do something else for awhile before results started showing up.

Now, could I have solved my Grammarly problems with configuration?  Potentially, but see, spending time configuring the tool isn’t featured much in the commercials or in the download material.  I had the reasonable expectation that Grammarly was going to find syntactic and construction issues with a high degree of fidelity right out of the box.  If it was going to require training or tweaking a lot of knobs, I might not have bothered to purchase it in the first place.

The good news is that The Legacy of Aris will likely make it back into print today and in much better condition because of hundreds of corrections and changes.  No, I will not renew my Grammarly subscription.

See you in the future, JTL.

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