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An Open Letter to Grammarly

****In regards to my concerns about putting in credit card details, I have been gifted a premium account to test with no details required of me. This is part of Grammarly’s blog partnership program. I will put up a review of the program/process soon.

A few months ago, I wrote a post called Grammarly Blog Sponsorship! Or Not… after receiving an offer from the company Grammarly. An Amazon gift card in return for a post. I did a little Googling and found, amongst others, The Blasphemous Homemaker’s thoughts on the subject. I decided to post a little response and call it a day.

However, only hours ago, I received another email from the same person regarding my post and the blogger partnership program Grammarly has. After reading the letter, I wondered if I’d been too harsh and not given Grammarly a chance. I decided to test out the site and do some more thorough research.

I’d originally meant to send this via email, but I spoke to the other author of the house… He encouraged me to post the email as an ‘open letter’ if for no other reason than to save other people some time when researching. Without further ado, my open letter…

Hello,

You’ll forgive me for having an ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it is’ approach to life – especially when it comes to people offering me rewards for very little work. While that’s a lifestyle I’d like to become accustomed to, it’s also a fantasy. I like the idea of Grammarly and the fact that you also offer free services (something I think should be pushed a lot more if the company would like to prove its legitimacy and to stem the tide of negative blog posts and reviews).

Because I received this second email from you, I decided to go further in my research of Grammarly to see if my previous Google search didn’t give me enough information. A series of posts on Street-Smart Language (http://www.streetsmartlanguagelearning.com/2010/04/grammarly-misleading-website-kills-my.html) makes it appear that Grammarly is interested in changing things so as to become more user friendly.

With this in mind, there are a few things that concern me in regards to the Grammarly sponsorship offer:

To ethically post up ‘I used Grammarly to check this post’, I would actually have to use it. I went to the website and popped in the post I wrote about the first email I received and discovered there are errors. However, Grammarly provides a ‘report’ with no specific examples. I have read elsewhere that some people find the report useful, but the practice of a site saying ‘you have seven errors, sign up to find out what they are!’ runs along the same track of malware in which they claim your computer has seven viruses and, if you sign up, they’ll clean out your computer. If Grammarly wants to appear as anything but spam, this is a feature that desperately needs to be changed.

****(See first paragraph of this post.) I was curious to find out more about the errors in the post, but I discovered that I would be required to put in my credit card details to do so. This is required for the free 7-day trial (and the specific results of the report). This action – requiring details – in and of itself puts the potential customer in a mindset of skepticism. Given that the majority of the complaints registered on the Better Business Bureau website are Billing/Collection Issues (http://www.bbb.org/greater-san-francisco/business-reviews/computer-software-publishers-and-developers/grammarly-in-san-francisco-ca-386175) this makes the practice even more suspect. There are many ways involving cookies and downloadable demos that Grammarly could share a ‘test’ of what they do – including a run down of the actual errors – without portraying the software in such a negative light.

I could put up a post that displays the ‘check’ rather than the report itself for no cost to me and go on my merry way with my gift certificate. That would be seen as an encouragement to buy, though, which is something I am not comfortable doing when I have not done it myself.

The next is the price. At the “Best Value” level, it’s $11.66 per month. To be frank, I don’t make that much every single month on end with my book sales at this point so I wouldn’t be able to break even with the cost of it. So I can tell you that, at this point, I won’t be buying it. I would have to tell my blog readers the same thing in the interest of full disclosure.

On the topic of books, I am a fiction author. I know that some writing advice – even in the land of formal versus casual/entertainment writing – works across the board. However, rules are often broken in fiction writing for effect. Fragments create drama. Dialogue is often grammatically incorrect because people don’t often speak in grammatically correct sentences. There are stylistic choices – to Oxford comma or not to Oxford comma, single quotes inside double quotes or the opposite – and Grammarly doesn’t appear to have the versatility to let users select such stylistic options. Something like Grammarly would no doubt chew my work to bits and point out things that don’t, in a fiction work, need pointing out. It’s very likely it would create unnecessary work. I think the program is better suited to formal writing – something I don’t currently do.

I also have a small concern with the software itself. Having pasted in the post and received a check of the errors, I am left a little confused. The check picked up one spelling error. I had another look over the post, and there are three potential culprits: Grammarly, Googling, and favourite. While I wouldn’t recommend adding “Grammarly” in, it is a company name and could be accepted as correct by the software. “Googling” is actually a word with a definition (it’s the common verb form of ‘to google’). One score for netspeak. Which leaves ‘favourite’. I’m not native, but I am in Australia and plan to be here for the rest of my life. I can’t seem to find anywhere on the site whether Grammarly caters to US English spelling, UK English spelling or both. (Both at the same time would present some unique troubles.) An in-depth review of the software at Grammarist (http://grammarist.com/articles/grammarly-review/) shows that one can wander from UK to US English and back again without notice by the program. This is especially a problem for someone like me who is bi-English (to coin a phrase) and tries her best not to do that.

On the topic of me living in Australia, I have been trained as an editor for UK English even though I have a US background. This may be a useful trait, but it also makes working for a United States company complicated – especially in the realm of taxes…*

With all this in mind, I think you can understand why I feel that I would not be the best fit. As much as I would love that Amazon gift card, I would have to write my post in a way that wouldn’t provide any real value either to my website or Grammarly.

Cheers,

Jaime

*In the email I received, my proofreading services (advertised on this website) were mentioned.

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