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Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Grammarly: might work for some, but not for me

I tried Grammarly's plagiarism checker free of charge because I wrote a story that's been told, in different re-incarnations, many times before. Yup, we're talking about Beauty and the Beast (an erotic re-imagining)!

While my version is original, I figured it couldn't hurt to run the book through Grammarly's plagiarism checker and make sure no little bits of other Beauty and the Beast stories managed to infiltrate their way into my book.

So when Grammarly contacted me and offered to sponsor a blog post about them, I agreed, mainly because I was already thinking it'd be cool to see what they had to offer. I've been offered to do sponsored posts before, and turned them down, because they weren't relevant to me or my readers. This is, so that's my excuse for going for it. :) However, there are *no* affiliate links in this post.

Unfortunately, they might not be so happy with my findings. I gave it a good shot, I really did. I checked two different books in their checker.

I had visions in my head of how awesome it would be if Amazon used a plagiarism detector to run book files through, so we wouldn't have authors getting ripped off like in the case of Elizabeth Nelson.

Sorry, folks, but the technology just isn't there yet.  The Pulse is published already, but there wasn't a single plagiarism alert for the chapter I pasted in.

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I will say that Grammarly got this right: They discovered that there was text online that contained the exact same words as a paragraph in my other book! The text is on my Smashwords preorder page for Beauty and the Beast. They matched the wording on my book page to the wording in my excerpt. So that's good! They got that.

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But they got a lot more wrong, unfortunately. Every time I used the words "Beauty and the Beast" in my Author Note in the beginning of the book (the part where I acknowledge the original fairytale and the other versions of the story, and made note of what was similar and what was different), Grammarly would put an alert, saying the phrase "Beauty and the Beast" was "plagiarized." That's not accurate, since you can't copyright a book title, but they don't know it's a book title.

I figured I better run something else through Grammarly, to give it a fair shot. So I put a long excerpt from The Pulse, Book 1 in the Pulse Trilogy, through their checker. As you can see in the screen shot, not one plagiarism alert, despite the fact that this book is published on multiple retailers, with excerpts on various blogs. Apparently my dream of Amazon using the program for plagiarism checks is still far away -- they don't quite have it down yet.

Grammarly also does grammar checks -- oh my, they sure do hate my grammar! Specifically, they can't stand conjunctions (and/but) used at the beginnings of sentences. But I use those a lot! (see what I did there? Tee hee.)

For folks who want to change every "But" to a "However," however, their suggestions could work.

Some of what they suggest would actually insert errors into the manuscript where there were none before (see the first screengrab), such as in The Pulse, in the sentence that says "he reached up and gently pinched her other nipple," they wanted me to change the word "other" to "another." Noooo. But, they did suggest adding some commas that, grammatically, were definitely correct. I just choose to leave them out for style.

Another Grammarly error that popped up a few times: random semi-colons. In my Author Note in Beauty and the Beast, I wrote "There have been many, many other adaptions" -- they wanted me to change it to "There have been many; many other adaptions." Nooo! You should only use a semi-colon if there is a full sentence on each side of the semi-colon. It's kinda like a period that way.

What if I didn't know that? I'd be introducing bad punctuation into my book.

And that, folks, is the reason Grammarly doesn't work for me. I have my own style of writing. I know the rules, and I choose to break them. On purpose. (That was a sentence fragment! The horror!)

If I were in high school and writing papers, I would probably be all over Grammarly. I think their fixes would work best on academic writing. You can actually choose which type of writing you have for them to check, such as academic, business, or creative, but the fixes all seem pretty academic to me. They do have some helpful suggestions, but an automated program is not as good as a human brain when it comes to finding and fixing errors.

In conclusion: for $29.95 a month, $59.95 a quarter, or $139.95 for a year, Grammarly is a helluva lot cheaper than hiring a proofreader. But a proofreader will do a better job, any day. I won't be using it again, but your mileage may vary. You can try it for free for a week and decide for yourself.
UPDATE: August 2, 2017: Grammerly contacted me and asked me to remove hyperlinks to their site since they are "cleaning up" their backlinks. So, I did. If you want to find them, Google is your friend :)

Also, for those who are finding this in 2017: I have changed my name and genre. I am no longer writing erotic romance as Shoshanna Evers... I am now writing inspirational romance as Shoshanna Gabriel. Big change, I know! You can find me at ShoshannaGabriel.com and keep up-to-date by signing up for my monthly newsletter at ShoshannaGabriel.com/subscribe. Keep in touch!

All my best,
Shoshanna Evers


  1. Not a good experience for me, either, Shoshanna. I intend to cancel before the 7-day free trial period. The idea's excellent, but the execution leaves a lot to be desired.

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