Wouldn’t it be great if your computer software could perfectly, instantly correct all your grammar?
Yes, it would be great.
No, it can’t do that.
If you are a software engineer, get to work on that. We will all buy your magic grammar checker.
In the meantime, language learners make do with grammar checkers like Grammarly, one of the most popular grammar checkers on the market. But, does it work?
As to how well Grammarly works, Grammarly can definitely help learners correct their writing IF learners can correctly evaluate what Grammarly tells them.
Here’s what you need to do to get the most from Grammarly.
Grammarly can’t read your writing. It does not have any way of understanding the meaning of your writing. It only applies a certain number of rules to the text. Grammarly is only as good as the rules that are programmed into it.
In ELT, we talk about two kinds of grammar. Descriptive grammar means we describe the way grammar works by looking at the way people actually use the language to communicate. Prescriptive grammar means we make up rules and then tell everybody they have to speak and write by our rules because our rules are the “right way”. Some rules that Grammarly uses are based on the “right way”.
ELT International maintains the position that no one owns English and there is no one “right way” to use it. That doesn’t mean there are no errors. There are. Lots of them. And Grammarly can help you find them. But YOU have to know if what Grammarly tells you is an error or not. You have to choose which rules to follow and which to ignore.
I’ll be writing more about how to tell which errors are errors and which are not in the next posts on grammar checking.