Imagine my thrill when opening this week’s email report card from Grammarly, an artificial intelligence (AI) grammar-and-spelling service with a contextual kick to its analysis.
Yeah, I like getting A’s—whenever possible. I’ve hopped and skipped through classes (French, English, comparative literature, improv acting, poetry, communication arts, painting, and social media) with baby boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials.
“Whoa, you had a stellar week. Not only did you unlock a new achievement badge but also set a new personal record. Great job!”
This praise from a genius stealth marketer at Grammarly keeps me hanging on to every word. It features a cartoonish rendering of Mona Lisa winking and saluting with a “V” sign worthy of Churchill.
“Holy Toledo! We did the math [thank God, as I’m a zero in that department] and you had 200,209 words checked by Grammarly over the last four weeks. Great job!”
Okay stealth marketer, you just lost genius status in the English department:
- You begin with a cliché. (Grammarly AI strikes all clichés in my copy.)
- Where’s the comma in the compound sentence? (AI corrects comma errors in declarative, compound, and compound-complex sentences.)
- You repeat, “Great job!” Am I in kindergarten? (AI points out all repeated words and phrases.)
“Productivity: You were more productive than 99% of Grammarly users.”
Is that because I’m a writer/editor?
“Accuracy: You were more accurate than 94% of Grammarly users.”
No A+. Believable. I would never qualify as a member of MENSA. My lopsided GRE scores confirmed that long ago. Vague attendees at cocktail parties typically ask, “What do you do?” To that banal opener, I respond, “I’m a professional dilettante.” (Liberal arts majors tend to smirk whereas some MENSA members will gravely inform me of their membership in that august body within five minutes of introductions.)
“Vocabulary (new record): You use more unique words than 99% of Grammarly users.”
Now that’s a puzzler. Have I amassed an impressive vocabulary? Or do I indulge in arcane verbiage? (The latter slaps that mysterious Mona Lisa mouth on my self-portrait.)
“Top 3 mistakes”
1. “Missing closing punctuation”
When bulleting brief items in certain documents, I opt to omit periods—the uncluttered look.
2. “Missing comma in a series”
Sometimes I follow Associated Press style (detested by defenders of the true faith—followers of the Oxford comma). For any paying customer, I deliver commas in the style you prefer.
3. “Missing article”
I edit resumes, which typically requires eliminating articles such as “a,” “an,” and “the” in running copy.
To the copywriter who issues my Grammarly report cards
Test email content with your company’s AI before releasing it to users. Better yet, brush up on your language skills using books by proven humanoids (still resourceful, even if 6 feet under). Some books go beyond grammar and delve into the principles of quality writing:
- Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life (Anne Lamott)
- On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft (Stephen King)
- 100 Ways to Improve Your Writing (Gary Provost)
- On Writing Well (William Zinsser)
- Story Engineering: Mastering the 6 Core Competencies of Successful Writing (Larry Brooks)
- The Little, Brown Essential Handbook (Jane E. Aaron)
- The McGraw Hill Handbook of English and Grammar Usage (Larry Beason and Mark Lester)
- The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century (Steven Pinker)
- Writing Down the Bones: Freeing the Writer Within (Nathalie Goldberg)
If you’re in an online hurry, click on:
- Grammar Girl: Quick and Dirty Tips (Mignon Fogarty)
- OWL: Purdue Online Writing Lab (with abbreviated MLA, APA, and AP style guides)
The future: artificial intelligence, me, or co-existence?
Grammarly is a helpful tool, especially if you work solo and must function as a writer-copyeditor-proofreader. Although superior to Microsoft Word grammar-and-spelling checks, it is not perfect. However, as bean counters in content and communications industries continue to downsize already shrunken, overworked staffs, I wonder whether they will consider replacing proofreaders with Grammarly.
For the moment, I take reassurance that my existence as a creative writer does not face immediate extinction. Unlike Data, the ever curious android in search of his humanity in Star Trek: The Next Generation, I would not name my cat “Spot.”
Please share other writing resources as well as literature that teaches by example in the comments. I will add them to the list.
WordPress Daily Post Prompt: Organize—In my experience, Grammarly does not reorganize content, even if needed.
Rainbow editing, autocrit etc. I’ve never seen AI that can really look at writing without being dry and limited, even wrong.
Thanks for comment. Yes, we still need the humanity in our writing.
Ooh Catherine, I banned Grammarly from my toolbar after too many “Tsk tsk, you forgot to end your sentence with a period”, when the “sentences” in question were numbered lists, arrrggghhh! A useful tool for those who have difficulty figuring out the difference between “their” and “they’re” but I’m not there anymore 😉 bises from Sharron
Great to hear from you, Sharron. Hope all is well over the pond. Bises!