Sorry guys, I should have told you about this sooner
Imagine a free app that shows you grammar mistakes you're making, corrects your spelling, and gives you advice about how to improve your writing. Sounds good, right?
Well, it exists. It's called Grammarly. A few months ago I tried it and didn't like it much.
But recently I corrected some essays from a Russian student called Alexander. 'There's only a couple of mistakes,' I told him, 'Good job!'
'Oh,' he said, 'but this is the version AFTER Grammarly.'
Later that day I listened to a podcast from one of the internet's most successful entrepreneurs, Pat Flynn. He's a guy who gives advice about making money online. He writes lots of articles, he's a native speaker, and he uses Grammarly. 'I couldn't live without it,' he said.
It was clear that I'd made a mistake. Maybe Grammarly wasn't very useful for me, but clearly it's useful for people learning English and it's helping some people make thousands of dollars a month from their writing.
I wrote back to Alexander to ask him to write a review of Grammarly - he'd be able to explain its benefits better than me! Fortunately, he was happy to help.
Review by Alexander, April 2016
Grammarly is great and free.
It doesn't matter which exam you're taking - IELTS, FCE, CAE, or PTE - there is always an essay to write. I believe that Grammarly is a great tool because it checks your essays at a professional level - without professional prices!
Superior Error Correction
As to the first advantage, Grammarly is the most convenient tool which corrects spelling and punctuation errors. Microsoft Word will find some spelling mistakes, but Grammarly finds more. And unlike MS Word, Grammarly gives advice on your writing, and interesting and useful recommendations about things like word order.
It's a simple plug-in for the Google Chrome browser, so it's all done online and doesn't take up any of your disk space. It saves corrections in case the browser crashes unexpectedly - so you'll never lose your work.
And because all your previous writing is stored in the Grammarly app, you can find anything you've written in seconds. Great for looking up phrases you used before, or looking back to see how much your writing has improved.
Finally, there is the option to upgrade and get even more functionality; unfortunately, it is available only for a charge.
In short, Grammarly is able to check essays quickly and with a high level of quality.
Grammarly Saves You Money
Another benefit is that Grammarly is smart for your budget. The process of preparing for exams not only costs time but also money. Joining an exam course, hiring a private teacher, or even just paying a proofreading service - none of these is cheap...
However, the basic Grammarly version does not require money. Undoubtedly, it is no substitute for a professional tutor. However, it is better to use the teacher for deep aspects of the language than to correct basic mistakes. That is to say, Grammarly does routine work and does it for free.
[Note from Andrew - this is a great point! Not to be arrogant but I don't make those 'routine' mistakes which is why I didn't see the value in Grammarly at first.]
In conclusion, if you're starting to prepare for an exam, download Grammarly. It's an assistant who is standing by ready to help you 24 hours a day, and will serve you at no cost until the day of your exam.
Now, that's a pretty compelling review! But I had a couple of questions and Alexander was kind enough to answer them.
Do you have specific examples of which grammar it has helped you with?
Unfortunately, there is no roll back function there; I can't go back and see all the mistakes I made because Grammarly already corrected them!
However, there are a couple of useful corrections I remember:
- That is to say you should... (no comma)
- Facing with the hardships... (no preposition "with" is needed)
- These mistakes are not seen by Microsoft Word
Do you think its correction of your mistakes has helped you realise which mistakes you commonly make?
- Verb forms
- Spelling correction.
- In addition, feedback is gotten immediately in comparison with a tutor, where the response is only after correction has been done.
Are you interested in buying the premium version?
Yes. Only greediness stops me from doing this. :)
There are some suggestions like invite your friend and get it free for a week. I am considering doing that.
As an additional advantage, Grammarly has been correcting my writing while I am typing this email. Visiting a special web page is useful but it is not necessary.
Weekly Statistical Feedback
Alexander was kind enough to forward me the email he gets from Grammarly. They send it to him every week and it has some interesting and motivational statistics.
Great! If YOU wrote 2500 words a week, do you think your writing would improve?
Not bad! Remember that many native speakers use Grammarly, so I wouldn't expect a student to be in the top ten percent.
Now this is very interesting and relevant for CAE students. Remember all those times I encouraged you to use 'advanced' words? Here's a big yellow number that tells you if you're doing it!
OH MY GOD THIS IS A GREAT TOOL.
This is the bit where they tease you - if you buy the premium version they'll help you with the other mistakes. I don't have a problem with it - they give a lot for free and the premium version isn't too expensive. About 800% cheaper than asking me to check your writing, I can tell you!
More invaluable stuff. Which grammar should you study this week? No need to ask your English teacher. It's right here in black and white.
By the way, this is totally accurate. I've corrected a few of Alexander's essays and articles are his biggest problem.
And it finishes with a link to an article about some aspect of writing. This week it's speech marks.
Look, if you want to improve your writing this could be a great tool. Go and download it right away.