I spend a fair bit of time working on this blog. More than I probably should given my unimpressive view metrics. It does help me to crystalize my thoughts and practice articulating points that are important to me, but I’m spending an awful lot of time doing it. Ultimately, I write because I enjoy writing. I just wish I could spend less time per post.

For a while there I was getting hammered by ads from Grammarly, and in a fit of frustration, or maybe I was avoiding yet another hour of editing, I signed up. I didn’t start with the free trial, I went straight to Grammarly Premium expecting that it would be great.

Within an hour I had installed every app and plugin I could. A couple of days later most of them were removed or almost completely disabled. I cancelled my subscription before the first month was over.

I’m getting ahead of myself though. Let me first explain why I thought it would be so helpful.

The quickest posts I’ve written here have taken me a couple of hours where the more detailed ones can take 10 to 20 hours to complete. About 75% of that time is spent editing the posts. Given the amount of time I’m spending editing, I assumed a tool like Grammarly could help me free up some time.

I ran the numbers for a few recent posts to illustrate:

It seemed like magic the first time I ran a blog post through Grammarly. The app filled up with suggestions, and many of them were helpful. Spelling mistakes, grammar errors, and little formatting mistakes were easy to spot and eliminate.

Here’s an example of a paragraph I edited one of the first times I used Grammarly on a recent blog post:

Unfortunately, Grammarly made a lot of other suggestions too, and you can see some of them in the example above. It tried to eliminate passive voice and remove emphasis from important points. It frequently suggested replacements for words (to reduce duplication) that would ruin common industry expressions. Worst of all, it felt like it was removing my personal style from the blog. Every time I skipped a suggestion I also had this little nagging voice in my head suggesting that maybe it was right and my style of communicating was wrong.

Even if I skipped the tone suggestions and stuck purely to grammar and formatting errors, it didn’t speed up my editing process very much. I call it editing, but it might be more correct to call it rewriting. My first drafts have typos and grammatical errors, but they are also often disorganized and lacking a coherent point. AI is going to have to advance a lot further to fix that for me!

Grammarly is still helpful with annoying tasks like checking for “its” and “it’s”, and it’s definitely better than a standard spell checker for catching typos and grammatical errors. I don’t typically enjoy editing, but I enjoy this kind of mindless checking the least of all.

Having switched to the free version of Grammarly, I get far fewer suggestions about tone and word choice, which I find better. The app does still share those suggestions occasionally in an attempt to upsell me, but I don’t find it too intrusive.

I don’t use any of the apps or plugins now. I found them to be exceedingly intrusive. The Windows app added a giant green G button that covered text boxes, and a lot of times it was covering things I wanted to see. The VS Code plugin covered my rough drafts in red and blue lines, and my programmer muscle memory couldn’t just ignore them. The browser plugin was the least intrusive, but still too noisy and often not helpful.

Now I use Grammarly primarily via its web interface, and only as a final pass at the end of the editing process.

The technology is promising, and it has helped a bit with some of the more mechanical editing I do. Until it gets a lot better, though, I will only be using it for very specific tasks. I’d have to see some pretty major improvements before I’d consider Grammarly Premium again.