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View Full Version : I suck at grammar, Is anyone using Grammarly pro?



SciSarahTops
03-08-2018, 01:03 AM
So it turns out I have a blind spot for grammar (particularly in dialogue) which is making work hard for betas. I'd also like to learn better grammar, but not necessarily by painstakingly correcting my 70K story. This is probably a stoneable offence on AW and I will brace myself for the pelting, but yeah, are there any short-term quick fixes to make it more easy in large docs (even if it is only to help betas while I get better) or do I have to trust my eyes to catch the mistakes?

I once asked my Mum why my grammar is so pants and she told me it wasn't "the fashion" to teach it in my formative years. Meh.

Would grammarly pro help with this?

Ari Meermans
03-08-2018, 03:34 AM
Personal opinion: No. I had it for a while but ended up chucking it because I overrode it more often than not when writing fiction. I think it would be a waste of time for dialogue, in particular. As I said, my opinion and all that jazz.

tharris
03-08-2018, 06:57 AM
I have it for free through school.

I love it. Don't get me wrong:as Ari said above, I find myself overriding it a lot. But, once you get comfortable with ignoring it and not trying to chase a perfect score (I kind of hate the score feature) it is invaluable for spotting errors you missed.

Also, its a great tool to learn about grammar. Each error has extensive text on why its a possible error. For example, if I put a sentence like this in there: A shot rang out and Molly screamed. It would probably suggest putting a comma in (A shot rang out, and Molly screamed), but tell you that its not a hard and fast rule when the second part of the compound sentence is short. Its going to show you the technical right way to do things, so that when you bend or break the rules you understand what you're doing.

donnsmith
03-08-2018, 06:59 AM
I can't speak to Grammarly Pro, but I tend to turn off any grammar checking as the software tends to try to make me change things that are better left the way I wrote them. From what I've seen, these things probably work a lot better for people writing business communications than those writing fiction. The word 'Pro' may be an indication that this one does a better job, but I'm not convinced.

On the other hand, if you're utterly rubbish at grammar, a grammar checker *might* help you to get better. I'm thinking of you seeing what the checker tells you and then taking time to learn why it's saying that (and then taking more time to learn why it might be wrong). This, of course, is far from a quick fix. Sorry.

FWIW, grammar instruction seems to be out of fashion again, at least where I teach. A couple of years ago, we had a new English teacher who had the kids diagramming sentences, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside since she moved on. (Disclaimer: I only know what goes on in the English department by hearing what the kids are complaining about most stridently,so it's vaguely possible, though unlikely, that a lot more grammar is being taught than I know about.) My own daughter, at the time a Lit major at uni, came to me to find out what the different parts of speech were.

tharris
03-08-2018, 07:04 AM
I have it for free through school.

I love it. Don't get me wrong:as Ari said above, I find myself overriding it a lot. But, once you get comfortable with ignoring it and not trying to chase a perfect score (I kind of hate the score feature) it is invaluable for spotting errors you missed.

Also, its a great tool to learn about grammar. Each error has extensive text on why its a possible error. For example, if I put a sentence like this in there: A shot rang out and Molly screamed. It would probably suggest putting a comma in (A shot rang out, and Molly screamed), but tell you that its not a hard and fast rule when the second part of the compound sentence is short. Its going to show you the technical right way to do things, so that when you bend or break the rules you understand what you're doing.

Just for fun, here is my above post as run through Grammarly. I wrote the above quickly and without re-reading it (notice how much I mess up its vs it's). Here it is after Grammarly:

-----

I have it for free through school.

I love it. Don't get me wrong: as Ari said above, I find myself overriding it a lot. But, once you get comfortable with ignoring it and not trying to chase a perfect score (I kind of hate the score feature), it is invaluable for spotting errors you missed.

Also, it's a great tool to learn about grammar. Each error has extensive text on why it's a possible error. For example, if I put a sentence like this in there: A shot rang out and Molly screamed. It would probably suggest putting a comma in (A shot rang out, and Molly screamed), but tell you that it's not a hard and fast rule when the second part of the compound sentence is short. It's going to show you the technically correct way to do things so that when you bend or break the rules, you understand what you're doing.

----

I ignored three things: it told me that "extensive text" was an odd word combination (its right that it sounds clunky, but I left it). It caught the first "shot rang out..." sentence just like I thought it would. It warned me that I was repetitive with the word "scream" (that was intentional). Otherwise it fixed a lot of commas and it's vs its. It also (correctly) noticed that "technical right way to do things" was weird. I didn't like its suggested fix, so I found my own.

blacbird
03-08-2018, 08:21 AM
Grammar checkers and grammar/style guides, every one I've ever seen, are intended for formal academic writing, not for fiction narrative. The best free on-line site is, IMO, Purdue OWL. It's very worthwhile to have that one bookmarked.

And it's a bad idea to turn off the grammar checker in your word-processing program, because it often catches spelling/typo mistakes that aren't caught by the spell checker.

But if you are going to be a good writer, you just plain need to understand grammar. It ain't cosmological quantum physics.

caw

ZachJPayne
03-08-2018, 10:53 AM
No. I find myself overriding it a lot more than it helps me catch actual problems. For academic stuff, as mentioned above, it's great. And I'll use it after I'm done writing to make sure that entire paragraph isn't a single sentence. But for fiction writing, it just doesn't help me.

Fallen
03-08-2018, 12:12 PM
I only use the likes of Office 365's grammar checker at the very end, after the script's been through several rounds of edits with my editor. That's only to catch minor, minor issues like extra spaces finding their way in during my edits etc.

Knowledge is a good thing, but the mind does like to play tricks on you, and it doesn't matter how good you are, you won't catch everything, so the checker's always a good last resort.

SciSarahTops
03-08-2018, 01:29 PM
Thank you everyone, I really value these responses!




But if you are going to be a good writer, you just plain need to understand grammar. It ain't cosmological quantum physics.

caw

I know blacbird, I thought I had a handle on it, I don't. And for me right now it's a little unfathomable because I am not seeing the errors.





Also, it's a great tool to learn about grammar. Each error has extensive text on why it's a possible error. For example, if I put a sentence like this in there: A shot rang out and Molly screamed. It would probably suggest putting a comma in (A shot rang out, and Molly screamed), but tell you that it's not a hard and fast rule when the second part of the compound sentence is short. It's going to show you the technically correct way to do things so that when you bend or break the rules, you understand what you're doing.


Yes, this is what I'm kind of hoping.

onesecondglance
03-08-2018, 01:42 PM
To be honest, there's nothing about your posts here that suggests you have widespread issues. Might be best to give a few examples and we can work through them? You probably only have one or two errors that you keep repeating.

(I have an irrational dislike of Grammarly based on their fecking annoying adverts every time I watch something on Youtube... no, I don't "neeeeed" this product you smug gits.)

SciSarahTops
03-10-2018, 12:07 AM
To be honest, there's nothing about your posts here that suggests you have widespread issues. Might be best to give a few examples and we can work through them? You probably only have one or two errors that you keep repeating.

(I have an irrational dislike of Grammarly based on their fecking annoying adverts every time I watch something on Youtube... no, I don't "neeeeed" this product you smug gits.)

Aw, well thank you, that is encouraging. I'm dreading tackling it to be honest.

mzanemcclellan
03-10-2018, 04:06 AM
I feel worse at it than I actually am (although that sentence may indicate otherwise). I am reading Ursala K. Leguin's, Steering the Craft, and she is adamant that a thorough understanding of grammar is essential for a serious writer. Words are our tools and it's like using a screwdriver where a hammer is required if you are not in command of it.
With that in mind, I grind out rehashing (or resurrecting) my grammar ed with these websites:
http://www.chompchomp.com/menu.htm
https://www.englishgrammar101.com/
http://www.cws.illinois.edu/workshop/writers/

Also, a painful truth I am having a hard time digesting, mostly for financial reasons, is that if you want to be a professional, you really need to invest in an editor. I keep reading from more and more credible sources that they make all the difference when we submit.

Good luck.
Michael

CatherineDunn
03-28-2018, 08:45 PM
I'm an editor -waves- and I second the person who said that there doesn't appear to be anything drastically wrong with your grammar in the short post you made here. If you do work with an editor in future, tell them you are looking to improve your grammar and ask them to include a few notes to help. Chances are, they can highlight your grammatical (or should I say ungrammatical) tics so you can avoid them in your next piece.

It's also worth remembering that a lot of so-called 'grammar rules' aren't actually rules at all. One thing I was surprised by when doing my training was actually how non-prescriptive copy-editing can be. There are many, many questions that don't have a right or wrong answer. Of course, sometimes there is something that's just straight-up wrong ... but it's rarer than you might think.

It makes a difference, too, whether you're writing fiction or non-fiction and in a formal or informal style. If you're writing a non-fiction academic work then you need to be a stickler for correct grammar. If you're writing a novel, that's not necessarily the case depending on the type of book it is. There might be some parts that are almost poetry! A good editor should be sensitive to that and retain your 'voice' and those of your characters.

If there are certain rules that you break repeatedly, I'm sure your editor can flag them up for you. I just edited the fourth book for someone and she is always looking to improve and very receptive to suggestions. For example, she had a way of punctuating which made dialogue tags out of things that can't really be dialogue tags ('she smiled', 'he preened', etc.) - very easy to fix, to mention and for her to avoid in future. Yes, it might be technically wrong, but it in no way made her writing bad. It just needed some small alterations.

neandermagnon
03-29-2018, 09:53 AM
FWIW, grammar instruction seems to be out of fashion again, at least where I teach. A couple of years ago, we had a new English teacher who had the kids diagramming sentences, but that seems to have fallen by the wayside since she moved on. (Disclaimer: I only know what goes on in the English department by hearing what the kids are complaining about most stridently,so it's vaguely possible, though unlikely, that a lot more grammar is being taught than I know about.) My own daughter, at the time a Lit major at uni, came to me to find out what the different parts of speech were.

In the UK teaching of grammar's not just the fashion, it's a massive thing promoted by the government, and kids in primary school (age 5-11) get hammered with it. (The rationale being they need to know it before they start secondary school at age 11/12.) My 8 yr old comes back from school saying things like "mum, do you know what a fronted adverbial is?" then telling me the answer when I don't know. My mum (who went to school in the 50s which is an era where grammar teaching was big) was there for the fronted adverbial conversation and after my daughter explained it said "oh, I thought it might be a kind of monkey."

Another time my older daughter, then in year 6 (last year of primary school) was playing an game of make-believe and came out with "I'm a happy little subordinate clause". Additionally, the school ran drop in sessions for parents to come and look at what kids have to learn in English, i.e. parents can learn the grammar that their kids are learning so we have an inkling of a clue when it comes to helping kids with their English homework. I sure as anything wouldn't know what a subordinating conjunction is if it weren't for my kids.

In light of that, if anyone wants a book to learn British English grammar where it's explained in a straightforward way along with efforts to make it fun and not deathly boring, any year 6 SPAG (spelling punctuation and grammar) SATS revision guide - I particularly recommend the one by CGP - is the only grammar book you'll ever need.

onesecondglance
03-29-2018, 12:40 PM
I am 99% certain that no-one, save language specialists, needs to know that crap.

Robinski
03-30-2018, 10:34 AM
I am 99% certain that no-one, save language specialists, needs to know that crap.

Which crap in particular? Good grammar; decent prose; entertaining narrative; or just English in general?

SciSarahTops
03-30-2018, 11:07 AM
I'm an editor -waves- and I second the person who said that there doesn't appear to be anything drastically wrong with your grammar in the short post you made here. If you do work with an editor in future, tell them you are looking to improve your grammar and ask them to include a few notes to help. Chances are, they can highlight your grammatical (or should I say ungrammatical) tics so you can avoid them in your next piece.

It's also worth remembering that a lot of so-called 'grammar rules' aren't actually rules at all. One thing I was surprised by when doing my training was actually how non-prescriptive copy-editing can be. There are many, many questions that don't have a right or wrong answer. Of course, sometimes there is something that's just straight-up wrong ... but it's rarer than you might think.



Thank you, this is fascinating. I would love to work with an editor one day. I think the problem with me is specifically with the dialogue and my beta (who is fab) said it is throwing him out of the narrative. Bad! I also didn't realise I was comma splicing left and right.


Which crap in particular? Good grammar; decent prose; entertaining narrative; or just English in general?

I think onesecondglance means 'fronted adverbials' neandermagnon referred to and all the nuanced nomenclature that describes grammar that is mostly innate to us. At least that's how I read the response.




In light of that, if anyone wants a book to learn British English grammar where it's explained in a straightforward way along with efforts to make it fun and not deathly boring, any year 6 SPAG (spelling punctuation and grammar) SATS revision guide - I particularly recommend the one by CGP - is the only grammar book you'll ever need.

Heh, that sounds like a fab resource thank you.

onesecondglance
03-30-2018, 02:08 PM
Yes, that's exactly what I meant - thanks Sarah. Fronted adverbials, subordinating conjunctions, etc.

Grammar is a toolset to understand how a language fits together. So I would say that a much more practical primer in grammar is reading - as widely and as much as possible.

lizmonster
03-30-2018, 03:04 PM
Yes, that's exactly what I meant - thanks Sarah. Fronted adverbials, subordinating conjunctions, etc.

Yeah. I learned this stuff for school so I could regurgitate it on tests, and promptly forgot it. I can tell you if something's grammatically correct or not (usually :)), but I can't tell you why.


Grammar is a toolset to understand how a language fits together. So I would say that a much more practical primer in grammar is reading - as widely and as much as possible.

This. Although I can imagine there are some people who internalize structure better if they understand the rules. Also, English is kind of nuts, so learning the rules and exceptions can be fun.

AW Admin
03-30-2018, 05:19 PM
Also, a painful truth I am having a hard time digesting, mostly for financial reasons, is that if you want to be a professional, you really need to invest in an editor. I keep reading from more and more credible sources that they make all the difference when we submit.l

That's not true. Unless you have a specific extra need for editorial assistance (not a native speaker, dyslexic, etc.) that's not good advice for people planning on trade publishing.

You may in fact be causing extra work for your publisher by using an external editor. Your publisher will have a house style sheet and preferred style. Your hired editor won't know those preferences.

AW Admin
03-30-2018, 05:23 PM
I am 99% certain that no-one, save language specialists, needs to know that crap.

Pretty much, yeah. The names for various syntax patterns and parts of speech aren't crucial, and they change (there are religious denominations in terms of labeling parts of speech).

But you do need to have an understanding of how punctuation marks work, and knowing what things are called will make that a little easier.

Get a good basic grammar guide, like one of those written for freshman comp classes. Use reputable online sources.

But keep in mind that writing fiction isn't the same as non-fiction; it's particularly not the same as writing academic papers.

People make "grammar errors" all the time in spoken English (and lots of them aren't actually errors; they're differences in style and usage).

I'd suggest reading a lot (read widely too; all kinds of things) and listen to how people actually talk.

Robinski
03-30-2018, 07:50 PM
Grammar is a toolset to understand how a language fits together. So I would say that a much more practical primer in grammar is reading - as widely and as much as possible.

Here, here. Could not agreed more.


Yes, that's exactly what I meant - thanks Sarah. Fronted adverbials, subordinating conjunctions, etc.

Seems to me that the former could be quite prevalent in poetry, and the later is just a name for something that we all use, but don't necessarily know the name of.

Harlequin
04-07-2018, 11:42 AM
Do you have dyslexia, OP?

I don't mean that as a rude question, but the reason I ask is my partner is dyslexic, and his grammar is stuck how it is. The only solution we have is that I go over everythign he writes (emails and stuff, he doesn't write fiction).

What I mean is, it's not a matter of practice for my partner. Just a part of how his brain works. He will always spell our/are wrong and can't refrain from using run on sentences.

Frenzy3
04-10-2018, 06:17 AM
I use both grammarly and prowritingaid. I like the ease of use of grammarly but I find I have to ignore half of their suggestions, which can be time consuming, 30 mins to review a 6000 word chapter.

Pro writing on the other hand is not easy to use but is near instant.

I would ignore grammar in dialogue to help make it authentic.

One last point as why grammarly doesn't offer a free trial of their paid version..

LeslieWilliams
04-11-2019, 05:29 AM
I just started using Grammarly to catch errors my MS Word spell check was missing. So far, Grammarly basic is free when using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, and I've integrated it into Word to use with the spell check.
I ignore a lot of the suggestions, but it is catching forgotten commas and other dumb stuff :}

Norman Mjadwesch
04-13-2019, 02:03 PM
What a truly strange world we live in. Here I was thinking that I was a fraud skulking amongst my betters, for no other reason than that I had absolutely no idea what adverbials or conjunctions etc were and it turns out that I’m not alone. I’d honestly thought that I was in a minority in that regard, and that my love of writing was somehow impure because I didn’t know all of the terminology for grammar, nor how they applied in every particular. Either we all need a pat on the head for swimming against the tide, or a kick in the backside for not taking swimming lessons before doing so.

indianroads
04-13-2019, 09:29 PM
I just started using Grammarly to catch errors my MS Word spell check was missing. So far, Grammarly basic is free when using Chrome, Firefox, or Safari, and I've integrated it into Word to use with the spell check.
I ignore a lot of the suggestions, but it is catching forgotten commas and other dumb stuff :}

Me too. The free Grammarly is good for catching the low hanging fruit, and it does find misused words (shutter vs shudder, that kind of thing), but I pretty much ignore it in dialogue. I've added it to word, but not my web browser as there's too much overhead and it slows everything down.

Chase
04-14-2019, 02:01 AM
I am 99% certain that no-one, save language specialists, needs to know that crap.


Which crap in particular? Good grammar; decent prose; entertaining narrative; or just English in general?

Like most who help creative writers spell, punctuate, and select the grammar they want for their stories, I don't make the rules. My job is to try to explain how to apply them so writers get what they want done.

In two and a half decades teaching English and another editing it, "crap" is pretty much what someone doesn't know and doesn't want to learn.

onesecondglance
04-14-2019, 01:43 PM
Like most who help creative writers spell, punctuate, and select the grammar they want for their stories, I don't make the rules. My job is to try to explain how to apply them so writers get what they want done.

In two and a half decades teaching English and another editing it, "crap" is pretty much what someone doesn't know and doesn't want to learn.

The quoted post refers to teaching 7-8 year olds what "fronted adverbials" are. I don't believe that's necessary. Reading widely provides a good grounding in grammar and has many other benefits. I stand by the statement that writers do not need to know such terminology to write well. Knowing the terms and having good grammar are not the same thing.

You're an editor, so knowing the correct terminology is useful to you. If I were one of your clients, I'd gladly listen to your editorial notes - however, you'd need to use less technical terminology to communicate them.

Chase
04-14-2019, 10:53 PM
The quoted post refers to teaching 7-8 year olds what "fronted adverbials" are. I don't believe that's necessary. Reading widely provides a good grounding in grammar and has many other benefits. I stand by the statement that writers do not need to know such terminology to write well. Knowing the terms and having good grammar are not the same thing.

You're an editor, so knowing the correct terminology is useful to you. If I were one of your clients, I'd gladly listen to your editorial notes - however, you'd need to use less technical terminology to communicate them.

I'll agree with the extreme cited, even if I doubt it's an everyday thing. Sour grapes is, however. Most good editors teach, assuring "technical terminology" isn't anything more than explaining what the proper wrench or part is called to avoid confusion.

Girlsgottawrite
04-15-2019, 12:25 AM
I found Pro Writing Aid (https://prowritingaid.com/) to be helpful. I could insert it as an add-on in word so it was really convenient to use, and the way it's formatted made it easy to pick and choose what I wanted to use it for. I think it's also a little more geared toward authors than Grammarly and is a good bit cheaper. Anyway, just thought I'd throw that at you. :)

Harlequin
04-15-2019, 09:50 AM
Yes, it is an everyday thing. At least here in the UK.

The overly technical, massively exam focussed education system is why my eldest is home educated.

onesecondglance
04-15-2019, 12:37 PM
I'll agree with the extreme cited, even if I doubt it's an everyday thing.

As Harlequin notes, yes, it is an everyday thing. The instances noted are from the National Curriculum - mandatory learning that must be delivered by schools at defined ages.

Kbars
04-20-2019, 12:42 AM
I do find grammar checkers useful. There are plenty of free checkers out there. What I find really useful is Hemingway App (http://www.hemingwayapp.com). It's totally free. It is not a grammar checker, but a style checker. I have a habit of using useless adverbs and find this tool essential! Suddenly, Hurriedly, Blatantly, Condescendingly, Moistly, Hopefully, Just, Really. These are all terrible words. When these are highlighted, I know my chapter needs work.

"Suddenly the door opened!"

I contend this is horrible! Using the word "suddenly" takes the reader out of the very suspense you are trying to create! We can do better!

"Alex felt a breeze from the force of the door opening. The door slammed into the wall causing the doorknob to to puncture the sheet rock causing a loud thwack."

This is so much more dramatic! Without the Hemingway App (Remember, it is free!) I have missed these opportunities to create more meaningful prose..

The words "Just" and "Really" mostly get deleted. Consider:

"I just want to make you really happy!"
or
"I want to make you happy!"

The latter is more precise and has a better feel to it.

The other problem that I have that Hemingway finds is when I accidentally slip into passive voice.

I just love this app so much that I wanted to share. Did I mention it is free?

You may have noticed certain words in this are bold. These are mistakes that I made composing this post! Read it again omitting those words. It is a lot more concise.
The text with color is the occasion where I used passive voice. Now that I examine it, it is a little off.

Gregg Bell
05-04-2019, 12:14 AM
More online grammar and spelling checker freebies:

https://languagetool.org/

https://www.grammarcheck.net/editor/

https://www.paperrater.com/free_paper_grader





(https://www.grammarcheck.net/editor/)

Azdaphel
05-10-2019, 01:49 PM
I use ProWritingAid. It does more than Grammarly without asking for a fee.

TheListener
05-10-2019, 02:45 PM
I would find a great workbook on grammar and use that. If you don't know how to format sentences, what goes where, how to use nouns, pronouns, verbs, action verbs, etc., then a program isn't going to work any better for you.

You can't fix the past but you can fix the future. Find that workbook, study it every day for maybe a hour. At some point your grammar will improve and so will your writing. If you don't want to buy one, find some sites on the net that will help improve it. I have enclosed a couple. One is British but shouldn't matter.

https://learnenglish.britishcouncil.org/intermediate-grammar
https://grammar.collinsdictionary.com/easy-learning

LUNABLUE
05-11-2019, 08:13 PM
I have grammarly but my recent posts got hammered for grammar, so I may try Purdue owl, whilst also trying to improve the grammar from learning. Good luck.

sivart_sf
05-23-2019, 04:26 PM
Just an update. Grammarly Pro can help you spot mistakes that normally you don't fiind with word….
BUT... the program doesn't necessarily recognize the difference between names you have already saved into word and what is in the database.

In fact, it often tells me for being too wordy which in some cases is okay. But when you are writing a book then this is a Problem

and it only does US English (And I think with a San Francisco dialect if you get my drift) because some of the suggestions from the program are bad

That being said once you understand the System it can be an invaluable tool