March 8, 2022

The Great Grammar Showdown: Grammarly vs. Microsoft

2  comments

What a week for word lovers! March 4 is National Grammar Day, and today (March 8) is National Proofreading Day.

The holidays this week are great reminders to pay attention to the details in our copy. Luckily we have artificial intelligence on our side. Grammarly is a tried-and-true AI-powered editing tool to keep your copy in top shape. But is it better than the built-in Microsoft checker? Let’s find out.

Grammarly Overview

Grammarly is the grandmother of all the online grammar checkers. They’ve been around since 2009, and they’re the first to add new stuff every time there’s a tech breakthrough.

Here are some of Grammarly’s best characteristics:

  • Grammarly Is Everywhere
    With browser extensions, stand-alone apps, web-based editors, Microsoft add-ins, mobile tools and more, Grammarly is the English teacher on your shoulder wherever you write.
Grammarly apps and downloads
  • Grammarly Is Incredibly Easy
    Wherever you have it installed, you just write… and it judges. Within seconds you get evaluations of factors such as Correctness, Clarity, Engagement and Delivery. The suggestions are clear and concise.
Grammarly Scores
  • Grammarly Is Informative
    Each suggestion comes with a little explanation and lesson, which may help you improve your writing in the future.
Grammarly Corrections
Grammarly Corrections
  • Grammarly Has a Great Free Level
    Grammarly’s free level will catch the biggest writing problems, such as spelling, grammar, punctuation and basic word choice. If you chose an upgrade, Grammarly will help with wordiness, clarity, engagement, tone and something it calls call “lively sentence variety.” It’ll even run your copy through a plagiarism checker to make sure you didn’t “accidentally” copy and paste a Wikipedia article into your history report.

Grammarly vs. Microsoft

Grammarly’s paid level isn’t cheap… $30 for a single month or $144 a year. I paid for a month to run my book through the analysis so I could compare it to Microsoft Word’s built-in checker.

Number of Suggestions

Grammarly: 823 / Microsoft: 202

On the first pass, Grammarly offered up 913 suggestions until I told it my document was casual and creative, then it went to 823. Microsoft found 202 things to fuss about me about.

Plagiarism

Grammarly: 8% / Microsoft 5%

Grammarly was much pickier when it came to identifying plagiarism. And Microsoft kept accusing me of plagiarizing myself. Both gave the ability to add the original source to the reference. Interestingly enough, Microsoft limits the number of words it will check per day.

Microsoft’s plagiarism checker
Grammarly’s plagiarism checker

Proofreading

The two tools caught different proofreading concerns. For example, Microsoft picked up that I had misspelled StarKist while Grammarly was quite concerned about hyphens.

Microsoft found the StarKist error.

Both were insistent that I use the Oxford comma (using comma before “and” in a series), but I am adamantly against it. Only Microsoft would let me fine-tune my preferences.

Microsoft Grammar Settings

I found it odd that both of them wanted me to put a comma after “National” for National I Love Lucy Day.

Evaluations

Both tools give you a reading level score and stats about sentence lengths, etc. Both said my content was great for adults 8-9th grade and higher. But they must count features in very different ways.

  • Sentences — Grammarly: 2544 / Microsoft: 1070
  • Words per Sentence — Grammarly: 17.2 / Microsoft: 9.5
  • Characters — Grammarly: 149,099 / Microsoft: 124,903

Again… this was the exact same document.

I thought Grammarly’s facts about reading and speaking time were helpful.

Grammarly’s document score
Microsoft’s document analysis

Writing Suggestions

As one might guess since it’s a paid tool that promises to improve your writing, Grammarly had a lot more to say when it came to rewording. Microsoft occasionally pointed out when I was wordy (which is all the time). Grammarly had feedback on word choices and transitions.

Grammarly offered ideas to improve “engagement.”

What about Google Docs?

I also ran the same document through Google Docs. Where Grammarly found 823 suggestions and Microsoft found 202… Google had like 25. But I was shocked to see that Google found some significant errors that both Grammarly and Microsoft had missed. I would be so embarrassed if this one had slipped by!

Google caught my your/you’re problem!

Bottom Line: Is Grammarly Worth the Money?

Grammarly’s free version and Microsoft’s built-in checker are pretty comparable. So if you don’t need much more than basic spelling and punctuation help, I wouldn’t invest in the paid version of Grammarly.

But if you’d like help staying on tone or you have trouble getting your point across on the page, Grammarly can definitely help. Plus, since you can access your pro features from anywhere, Grammarly can hang out with you to help in real-time, just like it’s doing right now while I type this.


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  • I loved this article. As always, Your Nerdy Best Friend delivers. I have Grammarly Pro, and I love it. I used the free version for years, but I was irritated because it picked up on errors but wouldn’t tell me what they were until I upgraded. So now I have Grammarly following me around all day while I work, and I love it.

  • Thanks for this! I used to get hilarious suggestions from Microsoft, things so patently wrong I’d have trouble holding back the laughter. Have they given up on me, specifically, or do you have enable something to get this comic relief? Also I notice that you often begin a sentence with “But.” Have the rules changed, or are you a rebel?

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