One of my blogging students asked me about Grammarly today. She wanted to know if I thought it could be a useful tool to help her write better blog posts, and improve writing style.
Grammarly is a software as a service (SaaS), offering. It can be added to your workflow with a Google Chrome extension. The free version is limited to spelling checks, but the paid version does a lot more. Installed on Chrome, the full premium version of Grammarly, encourages the user to write clearly and suggests fixes for grammatical and spelling errors.
Do I Need Grammarly?
I once tested Grammarly premium out, on a free trial. When the trial came to an end, I was demoted back to the free package. I found the free version next to useless when compared with what I’d become used to. But I also found Grammarly too pricey so I didn’t continue.
Today, I installed the free extension once again, and it’s assisting me to write this paragraph. It helpfully highlights spelling errors as I type. If you want to pay for the premium version, Grammarly provides a very comprehensive service including grammar corrections, vocabulary suggestions and a plagiarism detector. But there are other things I’d prefer to spend my money on before I buy Grammarly.
Serious bloggers are likely to need software for many aspects of their work. We need software for opt-in forms, visitor tracking, keyword research, site
Google Chrome already spell checks automatically, and right-clicking any word that develops a squiggly red underline in Chrome, will provide a correct spelling suggestion. Spell checking by itself is not nearly as comprehensive as Grammarly’s all embracing spelling, grammar and style correction engine, but it’s also not as intrusive.
There may even be some privacy issues with Grammarly as it is literally checking every word you type. Hmmm – this includes passwords. For privacy and security reasons alone, you may want to avoid it. So, what can we do instead.
Our Writing Habits
Someone I worked with used to use capitalisation in a way that I had not seen before. When writing, he would place what appeared to me, to be random capital letters on certain words mid-sentence. For example, he wrote something similar to this in a blog post.
The customer told me enthusiastically that I was the best Plumber he had ever invited to clear his drains.Work Colleague
I was proof-reading my colleague’s work, and suggested that he remove all the visually disruptive capital letters. I found them distracting.
He believed that when you use a noun to refer to yourself, then that noun should be capitalised. This grammatical rule was not taught to me at school, nor had I noticed it in any book I’d ever read. But when I objected, he said that US English and UK English may well be different in this regard.
I wanted to convince my colleague to use lowercase because I didn’t want the blog posts to present badly. To this end I asked some American friends that I knew through Facebook for their thoughts.
They all said the capitals in this context, were incorrect. With this, I was able to go back to my colleague and get agreement to replace all the unexpected capitals letters with their lowercase selves.
What Do Professional Writers Do?
Everyone makes grammatical errors, so professional writers use human editors to review their work. Editors are people who have internalised all the right ways to write, and who can presumably spot grammatical errors at 60 paces. But professional editors are expensive. Instead, self-publishers and bloggers like myself, must learn to self-edit our own work.
The discussion that ensued with my Facebook friends about capital letters ended with us talking about stuff like Oxford commas, and other grammatical controversies. Then someone suggested the use of one of the well-known style guides to provide definitive answers to questions regarding punctuation, vocabulary, grammar and writing style.
Wait a minute. Did someone say I could improve my writing style by reading a style guide? At this point in the discussion with my erudite friends, I still didn’t get it. I understood that a style guide could help decide if a semicolon was required somewhere, but surely, there was no way it could help me or my clients write better blog posts.
The Unbearable Lightness Of Blogging
But my Facebook friends insisted that a style guide could also improve writing technique.
The book they recommended was a famous style guide by William Strunk Jr. It would provide answers to questions about writing style as well as grammatical rights and wrongs.
But I wasn’t convinced. Virtually, and feeling unenthusiastic, I trudged off to Amazon. There, while looking around I found a similar book – not the one that had been recommended.
This book was by an author called Richard De A’Morelli. I decided to get that one rather than the book they’d mentioned, simply because there was an option to get the 2017 edition for free with my Kindle Unlimited package. So I downloaded it and I started reading.
I hadn’t scanned more than 5 or 6 pages before it was brought home to me, that if I wanted to earn a living from blogging, the way I used written English would matter.
The De A’Morelli style guide was a revelation! Not only did it contain answers to questions about every grammatical situation I was likely to come up against (including the one posed by my client), but it also explained, succinctly, how I could improve my writing style. I was stunned at how well it communicated the ideas it contained. The book literally practiced what it preached.
Within 10 minutes of owning the guide my ability to construct sentences dramatically improved. Please understand – I already thought I was a pretty good writer, but, there was an annoying aspect to my writing style that I knew was flawed. Until that moment, I hadn’t figured out exactly what was wrong, let alone how to fix it. Fortunately for me, the style guide made everything clear, very quickly.
Maybe the original book my friends recommended would also have had the same effect. I’ll never know! If you’re interested in the improving your writing style, grammar and sentence structure, I can definitely recommend the book I read.
No Kindle? No Worries
I own an Amazon Kindle reader, but I am reading my Style Guide book mostly at my desk from the Kindle App on my computer. The reason is that I’ll most likely reference it while I’m writing, so accessing it on my computer, rather than on a separate device, will be handy.
Reading Using The Kindle App
The Kindle App is free and easy to install on your computer. You do not have to buy an Amazon Kindle to get the best use from the Kindle version of the style guide. It also means you can start reading it straight away as delivery is instant.
This is what my book looks like on the Kindle App on my desktop computer.
Enjoy! Here’s to my improved blogging. And yours!