Grammarly is an advanced grammar and spell checker for iOS and Mac. It helps me write better copy at work and in my capacity as a blogger. If you write as much as I do, I would highly recommend checking it out.
The Need for an Advanced Grammar and Punctuation Checker
Let’s face it: the spell checkers that are built into most operating systems, such as macOS, suck. They detect basic grammar mistakes, but that’s nowhere near enough to produce high-quality copy. Microsoft Office (i.e., MS Word) provides enhanced support for spelling, grammar and punctuation checking, but in my opinion it’s still not robust enough. Plus, I do most of my writing in either in Apple Mail or a browser.
For Sales Professionals
I’m a sales executive for a technology company, so I’m constantly communicating with clients and partners. Plus, I’m a native German speaker and English is only my second language. Grammarly helps me double-check important emails before I send them. I also produce copy for marketing collateral, presentations, and my company’s web page. In those cases, I rely on Grammarly to flag errors an ordinary spelling checker wouldn’t find (such as run-on sentences).
If you’re reading this article, then you know that I’m also a blogger. Search engines use the quality of your writing as one of the factors that determine relevance (and thus, the ranking of your content in search results). So it’s essential to write clean copy and to avoid grammar, spelling and punctuation mistakes.
Recently, I went through some of my older articles from before I started using Grammarly. Needless to say, they had a ton of grammar errors the regular spell checker didn’t detect. Thanks to Grammarly, I was able to start fixing my older blog posts, which (as noted above) significantly helps my page with regard to search engine optimization.
Grammarly is an advanced grammar checker tool that’s available in both a free* and a premium* version. The free version offers 150 critical grammar and spelling checks. I use the premium* version, which adds the following features:
- Over 100 additional advanced grammar, punctuation and spelling checks.
- Word choice suggestions that help me expand my vocabulary and express myself more efficiently and precisely.
- Genre-specific writing style check, which takes into account whether I’m writing a technical or sales document.
- A plagiarism detector that cross-references your copy against more than 8 billion web pages. I haven’t used that feature much, so I can’t say how good it is. But I can imagine that plagiarism detection is a valuable tool for an editor who works with a team, or for publishers who hire other writers to produce content.
The main reason why I opted to pay for a Grammarly premium account is the advanced grammar and spelling checks, which utilize a set of advanced grammar rules to identify not only obvious errors (like “blog post” mistyped as “blof post”), but also potential errors related to more complex grammar, punctuation, sentence structure and style issues. The full list of checks and more details are available here* if you want to learn more.
Grammarly offers extensions for major browsers. On a Mac, that includes Safari, Chrome, and Firefox. I’ve used Grammarly with both Safari and Chrome and wanted to point out some of the issues that I have run into.
Grammarly Issues in Safari
I use the browser extension mostly in combination with WordPress and other online forms I have to fill out. The problem is that in Safari, if you select text and start typing to overwrite the previously-selected text, Grammarly makes the cursor jump to the end of the paragraph.
As a result, the characters you’re typing don’t go where you want or expect. That only happens when you select text and type, but it’s super annoying if that’s one of your editing habits. In fact, it’s so irritating that I switched to Chrome for writing blog articles.
I submitted a support ticket to Grammarly about that issue, but they didn’t offer a workaround or a timeline for a fix. Nevertheless, Grammarly did fix the problem in one of their recent updates. Since they do not provide release notes with their updates, I can’t tell in which version of the Safari extension the problem was resolved.
Grammarly Problems in all Browsers
The second, albeit a little less annoying problem, is that Grammarly deletes <iframe> statements from the text it checks. I noticed that bug when checking a blog article that had a YouTube video embedded via an iframe. As soon as you run the Grammarly check, it removes the complete “iframe” and replaces it with white space. So when I edit an article with an embedded video, I always copy the embedding code to the clipboard and paste it back after using Grammarly.
Microsoft Office Integration
On Windows, Grammarly offers an Office add-in. Unfortunately, Grammarly doesn’t provide a Word add-in for use with the Mac version of Office. Thankfully, there is a workaround—although not a very elegant one. You can upload Word documents to the native Grammarly for Mac app via drag-and-drop or an upload button. (You can also upload Word docs directly to the Grammarly web app.)
The Grammarly desktop app for Mac works pretty well, and it doesn’t change the layout of your Word document when you export it after the check has been completed. I am hoping that Grammarly will develop a native plugin for using Grammarly with Word on a Mac in the future.
Native Mac App
As I mentioned above, the Mac desktop app is currently the only way to use Grammarly with Microsoft Word documents (aside from uploading the files via the web app). I also use it with the text I write in other applications, such as Apple Mail.
For that, I just copy and paste the text into Grammarly, correct any spelling or punctuation mistakes, and then copy it back. That approach works well, but I usually lose all formatting in the process. As a result, I format my text only after I have fixed all the spelling and grammatical errors using Grammarly, and once I’m done with my final proofread.
Grammarly for iOS
Grammarly recently released an iOS keyboard extension. As a result, users finally have access to an excellent spell checker on the iPad and iPhone.
To install Grammarly, download the app from the App Store, open it, and log in to your account (or sign up* for Grammarly). Then, you can add it as an additional keyboard via Settings > General > Keyboard > Keyboards > Add New Keyboard.
Once added, click on the newly-installed keyboard (Grammarly) and enable “Allow Full Access.” Full access is required for Grammarly to work, but keep in mind that this means Grammarly will have access to everything you type while the keyboard is enabled. As a result, I recommend not using any third-party keyboard extensions when you type sensitive information (such as passwords).
To flip back and forth between the standard keyboard and Grammarly, just click on the globe icon next to the space bar.
The content below is struck-through because it was written before Grammarly released its iOS app. I’ve decided to leave it here for posterity.
The lack of iOS support is probably Grammarly’s most significant disadvantage. I noticed how dependent I had gotten to Grammarly when I was traveling, accompanied only by my iPad Pro, only to realize that Grammarly doesn’t support mobile devices. According to Grammarly, mobile support is on their roadmap, but they didn’t give me an ETA. As a workaround, you can open https://app.grammarly.com on your iOS device and request the desktop version of the page in Safari. Here is how that works: Open Safari and navigate to https://app.grammarly.com Click and hold (or force touch) the reload icon in the address bar Select “Request Desktop Site.” Be aware, however, that the page will likely behave funky as it has not been designed to work on a mobile device. But in a pinch, you can use it to check for spelling and grammar issues.
Advanced Grammar and Spell Checker for iPad and Mac
Grammarly is an excellent grammar and spell checker. Unlike Word’s built-in proofreading tools, Grammarly’s premium plan offers a robust contextual spell checker that catches substantially more grammatical mistakes than any other tool on the market. What this means is that when you check a document, Grammarly not only looks for obvious misspellings and typos, but also analyzes your intended meaning based on the context of the sentence.
One simple example is the proper use of to/too/two, which can be tricky for non-native speakers. Most spell checkers only analyze whether a word is spelled correctly. If you write “too” but should have written “to,” the word will still pass the check (even though you’ve used the wrong form). Grammarly’s contextual analysis catches most (if not all) of these problems.
Another aspect of Grammarly that I love is the fact that it helps me improve my writing skills and produce better—not just cleaner—content. In my case, the majority of the feedback Grammarly provides comes in the form of suggestions rather than corrections. For example, it shows me how to phrase things more concisely, offers alternate word choices to avoid repetitive phrasing, and flags sentences and paragraphs that may be considered too lengthy or complex.
With that said, Grammarly is not a perfect solution. One of the editors I work with has noted that its suggestions are not always correct or advisable. For example, while non-native speakers in particular may benefit from its word choice suggestions, it can be difficult to know what words are actually appropriate with regard to tone and commonality in a given context.
“Vital,” “essential,” and “necessary” can all mean about the same thing, but each communicates a slightly different idea depending on the context of the sentence. Grammarly tends to be a little bit overeager when it comes to making suggestions to avoid repetition.
It can also be overeager when it comes to passive voice correction. Make no mistake—Grammarly will flag every instance of passive voice in your text. However, as my editor has noted on multiple occasions, passive voice is a natural part of the English language.
While it’s good to write in active voice as much as possible, trying to avoid every instance of passive voice can result in awkward writing that sounds unnatural. If you’re a non-native speaker, it might be difficult to know which instances of passive voice should be edited and which ones are OK to leave.
There is also some room for improvement regarding how Grammarly functions and its usability/compatibility. For example, it needs to address the “iframe” bug in its Safari extension. I would also like to see a plugin for Microsoft Office for Mac and Apple Mail.
Still, even with these shortcomings and caveats, there’s no other editing tool that even comes close to offering the accuracy and range of benefits provided by Grammarly. I rely on it and the value it provides every day. And I’m incredibly pleased that Grammarly has finally released an app for iOS in the form of a keyboard extension. As a result, I now have an excellent spell checker on my iPhone and iPad.
So if you’re a professional who communicates with customers or partners, a writer, or blogger, I would highly recommend taking a closer look* at Grammarly and giving it a try!