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I have a love/hate relationship with texting. On the one hand, I think it is wonderful because it allows us to have instant communication. On the other hand, I think it has made us lazy and has turned many of us into twelve-year-old girls. 🙂 There is a person I communicate professionally with who responds to my texts with replies like “Ty,” (thank you), or “Np,” (no problem), or “let me know when ur free.” This is an adult communicating this way. 🙂 Autocorrect can fix some things, but often I find it puts the wrong word in for me, and unless I proofread my texts, they can be sent, making me look like an idiot.
If you do any writing at all, you know the importance of proper grammar, spelling, and punctuation. For me, an understanding of its merit began in sixth grade. I had an English teacher named Mrs. Cobb who was a strict enforcer of all things proper. She was unyielding in her quest to teach us all to be effective communicators. At the time, I thought she was a bit of a buzz kill, but as I grew older, I came to appreciate what a gift she had given me. I grew up loving to read, and finding myself able to write well was equally as satisfying. I believe that good readers can be good writers. If as children we are exposed to great books that are well written, we internalize the spelling, grammar, and sentence structure that we see. It reminds me of what I have heard about the way training is structured for those who investigate counterfeit money. They are not shown a lot of fakes. Instead, they are immersed in the intricacies of the genuine, therefore becoming intimately familiar with its qualities. This makes spotting a mistake much easier. I feel much the same way about reading and writing. Good literature can provide us with examples of exquisite sentence structure, and elegant vocabularies. It is for that reason that I try to read as many of the classics as I can. Plus, the stories are good too. 🙂
Proofreading comes fairly naturally to me, and I usually have become the Proofreader-In-Residence wherever I have worked. People just start giving me their stuff to look over, and I’ve even had co-workers who would come to me and tell me what they wished to say, and then ask me to write it for them. So thanks, Mrs. Cobb, for the added workload. 🙂 However, no one is perfect, and we all make mistakes. Any tool that we can use to help us become better communicators is always a good thing.
I was recently introduced to Grammarly, which is a service that proofreads written work, searching for spelling, grammar, and punctuation errors. It is a step beyond a regular spell checker, with the ability to correct grammatical errors, along with spelling and vocabulary errors. It also works with many of the places we write, including email, Facebook, and Twitter. It is a useful tool for personal and professional communication. I can also see a very practical application of its capabilities for students.
There are two options in which to utilize Grammarly. There is a free Chrome extension that is quick and easy to install. This option provides access to the 150 most critical grammar and spelling checks. This is the least you can do for yourself to improve your writing. You can type or copy and paste your text into their site, or it will work within a document you are writing within another interface. I installed the free extension and then wrote a sample paragraph to test it out. Here is a screenshot of my sample paragraph.
I made intentional errors, and as you can see, it underlined any misspelled words and then showed the correct spelling in green. If you click on the proper spelling, it replaces your error with the correct spelling. I also purposely used the wrong form of “your,” to see if it would catch it, and it did. It told me that I had possibly confused “you’re” with the spelling I should have used, which was “your.” I was happy to see that it caught this because misusing those types of words are some of the most common errors I see in writing. Your, you’re. Their, there, and they’re. Two, too, to. Those are the biggies that trip people up. So the capability to catch those contextual mistakes alone makes this extension worth your time.
The Not Quite.
I purposely used a word in the second to last sentence that is a word in itself, therefore spelled correctly, but is not the correct word in this context. I also used the wrong punctuation at the end of the sentence. The sentence reads, “It even catches improper usage of words that are spelled the same, yet used incorrectly withing context?” I used the word “withing” instead of the proper word “within.” I put a question mark at the end of the sentence instead of a period. Neither of these mistakes was caught. This leaves you with a couple of options. The first one is to proofread your own work manually regardless of any programs you are using to catch errors. I think this should be done anyway because I don’t trust any spellchecker or service to catch everything. I have issues. 🙂 The other option is to try out Grammarly’s premium service. They offer three service plans with the following pricing:
Monthly, at $29.95 per month
Quarterly, at $19.98/ month, billed as one payment of $59.95
Annually, at $11.66/ month, billed as one payment of $139.95 (best value)
What do you get with the Premium Upgrade?
In addition to the 150 grammar and spelling checks included with the free edition, you get 100 additional advanced grammar and spell checks. You also get suggestions to enhance your vocabulary. One interesting additional feature is the genre specific checks appropriate for that style of writing. Another additional upgrade that I think would be extremely beneficial to students is the plagiarism checker, which checks against 8 billion web pages for content replication. You get explanations of grammar rules so that you understand why you are being prompted to make a correction. Learning the rules as you go along can make you a better writer. The Premium version also allows you add words to your personal dictionary, and access synonyms and word definitions. They also offer professional proofreaders who will take a look at your document. For me, the Premium version offers capabilities most beneficial for the variety of writing projects I encounter.
In writing this blog post, it has come to my attention that I may be a bit comma happy. Grammarly has been working in the background as I write this, pointing out my overuse of commas. ,,,,,,,, 🙂
So who can benefit from using Grammarly?
Being able to express oneself elegantly and properly is a skill that takes work and dedication. Some of us have had more training and practice than others, but the advent of technology means that is no longer an obstacle. Think of all the written communication that happens in our daily lives. Texts, emails, cover letters, thank you notes (you ARE a thank you note writer, I hope), research papers, journal entries, business proposals, and the list goes on. If you could use some practice, as I think we all could, challenge yourself to improve your written communication skills. If there is a student in your life, consider a subscription to Grammarly for them to help them become better writers. They have many research papers, dissertations, college applications, and scholarship essays in their future. I think anyone who struggles with grammar, spelling, and punctuation can definitely benefit from using Grammarly. Even those who are more accomplished can use the service to tighten their grip even further, using it to address more advanced issues.
Although I will still probably always review my writing manually, I like having some help checking my work. We can all refine the written expression of our ideas, and a service like Grammarly can be an invaluable tool. Just think of it as your very own Mrs. Cobb. 🙂