Should Authors Use Grammar Check Softwares?

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I hear a lot of people talk about grammar check softwares. Which software is the best? If you use the spell check in Microsoft Word, do you really need another software? But most importantly, do authors even need one?

Unfortunately, there are a lot of misconceptions out there about these softwares, and believing them can lead you down a slippery slope. With your manuscript, you just can't afford to take that risk. So, here is how you should use grammar check softwares and how you should not use them.

1. Grammar Softwares Have Their Uses - The Pros

Grammar check softwares can help you catch basic spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. They can sometimes catch when you use affect when you should be using effect or when your comma should really be a period. Spell checks provided by word processors can check for those same things, but softwares like Grammarly are usually more accurate and catch more errors.

Another thing Grammarly and others have over Word's spell check is its ability to look beyond the basics. Grammarly can do advanced grammar checks by analyzing the context, pointing out overused words, and allowing you to pick what style of writing you're doing so that it can better critique your writing.

Not sure what a split infinitive is? Grammarly will not only look for those in your writing but also give you an explanation and suggest how to fix it. So, unlike word processors, it will actually explain the issues and guide you through the best option(s) to correct it.

 Here is an example of Grammarly on my desktop app explaning what PAssive voice is.

Here is an example of Grammarly on my desktop app explaning what PAssive voice is.

2. Grammar Softwares Are Limited - The Cons

While these grammar softwares are more accurate than a word processor, they aren't always accurate. When using Grammarly or any other related software, we still have to use our own knowledge of the English language and decide whether or not a suggested edit should be made. Softwares are simply programs, so they can't always understand the context or your story perfectly.

For example, while Grammarly has the option to choose various styles of writing, such as business essay or novel, it still won't always match up with the APA or Chicago Manual of Style all the time. When in doubt, it's best to turn to these sources as the final decision or let your editor do so.

 Here is an example of me having to use my knowledge of English and style. Grammarly wanted me to delete the third comma (aka Oxford or Serial Comma). I knew that was not correct based on the style guide I used, but when I looked at the context, I realized that Grammarly pointed it out because I hadn't written the sentence correctly. I was then able to make the change that I had not caught on my own.

Here is an example of me having to use my knowledge of English and style. Grammarly wanted me to delete the third comma (aka Oxford or Serial Comma). I knew that was not correct based on the style guide I used, but when I looked at the context, I realized that Grammarly pointed it out because I hadn't written the sentence correctly. I was then able to make the change that I had not caught on my own.

3. How I Suggest Using Grammar Check Softwares

Grammar check softwares are useful. There's no doubt about that. Since we will never be able to catch all the errors in our own writing, tools like Grammarly are valuable, and I highly recommend using Grammarly in particular.

But for any spelling or grammar check, rely on your own knowledge and creative liberty to decide whether or not to make the changes these softwares suggest.

Use them to help you get your draft as clean as you can before submitting your manuscript to an editor, which could help you save some money on editing costs.

However, if you want your book to stand out and have its best chance at success, do not use grammar checks as a replacement for an editor. Use them in addtion to an editor.

So, go ahead and give it a try! Sign up for a free account with Grammarly to polish your manuscript even further, and let me know what you think in the comments below.