Just Checking – Grammar Checkers

I am a famous comma masher. Once I’m in the groove, I tend to put commas where my head stops and let my gerunds run wild like mustangs on the plains, resulting in images like one my mother once blurted out: I saw an eagle driving down the road. I teased her mercilessly for years, not anymore. My challenge is ensuring commas are where they need to be and not where they’re not. So, I use Microsoft Editor and/or Grammarly to keep me on the straight and narrow (or arrow, as a friend believed, an image unto itself).

For fun, I ran two draft paragraphs through Grammarly and Microsoft Editor. One thing is clear; they rely on different stylebooks with commas and semi-colons coming and going between them.

ME vs. GRAMMAR CHECKERS – The apps’ suggestions are in parenthesis after my text; Grammarly (G), Editor(E),both(GE).

“You,” Cora called, “Despite the signs set out earlier, our water is for the boarders (borders GE) here. It is not public. And we have sick in this house (, G) so I cannot attest to the water’s cleanliness.”

One man backed; the others stood their ground. “Can’t be both, (; G) either its good water for your boarders (borders G) or it’s bad,” one of the two said.

And another . . .

A skinny body in faded tweed pants ran up the street (, G) calling her name. Cora waited until Tommy Newsom reached her, flushed from his run, his plain face sweating under a ragged straw hat, dust (, E) and dirt billowing behind him.

“Miss Countryman, please,” he pulled on the sleeve of her dress. “Please, I just come from the undertaker’s, ma’am. Two men brung (brought GE) Mr. Kanady in there, (; G) now he’s layin’ all white like the rest of them (the GE) dead bodies. He don’t (doesn’t GE) belong in (delete in, G) there, not with them. He’d rise if he could. No matter if’n he was dead or not.”


My observation is that in its drive to be the go-to grammar app for business, Grammarly has become a swampy bog for storytellers. I miss the early versions of Grammarly when you could check grammar, spelling, or punctuation one at a time. Not anymore, now it gloms onto your file and drills through your text relentlessly totaling up the error count while reconstructing sentences, seeking improvements such as the house’s door instead of the door to the house. There is, in my head, a place for both. But then, it is my head, which may or may not be a safe or sane place.

It used to be easy to add a word to Grammarly’s dictionary. It isn’t now or I just can’t figure it out.. So, Grammarly endlessly corrects perfectly correct words (boarders) and colloquialisms every blooming time they appear. Unlike Microsoft Editor which learns boarders is a word after the first correction, much appreciated since one of my main characters runs a boarding house with boarders.

And, charmingly, Grammarly offers irrelevant word options such as president, chairperson, or head as an alternative for a chair (he sat on the president) to freshen up your text. Or, as it did two paragraphs above, suggests the text read: the house’s door instead of the entrance to the house. Microsoft Editor does no such thing. But is Editor as good as Grammarly at catching what needs caught? Know this — Editor is not as intrusive or overwhelming. Grammarly will happily inform you that you have 2,400 errors in 80,000-words when most are repetitive or irrelevant, as above. My immediate response is the desire to slit my wrists followed by the resolve to drill down through the text — days— to find the nuggets which, in all fairness, are there.


I leave it up to you to decide which is best or whether you even want to bother with either. As for me, I reckon until the next best thing comes along, a quick run through Editor or a slog through Grammarly is better than ending up with an eagle driving down the road.

3 thoughts on “Just Checking – Grammar Checkers

  1. Grammarly sounds awful. I use the editor in Word, but then I do one more thing. I copy the document into a GoogleDoc. GoogleDoc has their own editing program that has caught many errors that Editor overlooked.


  2. Microsoft used to have the grammar function built in, so I could check sentences and move on. I never thought the options offered were any good, so I stopped using it. After seeing the options offered in your text, I think I’ll avoid both of them. I too use Chicago when I need to check something.


  3. Loved this post! I recently added Grammarly to my computer. I don’t go with everything it says, but more use it to rethink how the sentence reads and improve it. If there is a comma suggested where I don’t think it belongs, I look it up in The Chicago Manual of Style. Grammarly makes me rethink things and I like that about it.


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