Today I want to write about using Grammarly, the grammar aid program, for scholarly writing. As a scholar of postcolonial studies, even though most of my published work is in English, I still sometimes make simple grammar mistakes. (In fact, the editor of one of the leading journals in my field once asked my to take out all the redundant “Hences” from my paper:) Maybe part of the reason for my struggles with minor grammar issues is that English is my third language, out of five, but maybe also because English is one of the hardest languages to master in comparison to other languages. The sheer number of exceptions in English grammar and usage can sometimes be daunting for non-native speakers and writers of English. So, as a rule, for my scholarly writing, I am not shy about seeking editorial help either from family, friends, and colleagues or from any available grammar-checking sources, such as Gramamrly, available on the internet.
Is Using Grammarly Professionally Okay?
I know, the moment you think of using Gramamrly as an aid in your scholarly writing, the question automatically pops up in your head: Is it professionally acceptable to use Grammarly? This happens also because most of us think of writing as an extremely individual and personal process, and even thinking of employing a technological writing aid, like using Gramamrly, comes across as something unprofessional. But think of it this way: No single work of scholarship is ever published without an editorial process. If you have read my article on Scholarly Publishing, you already know that not only is proper usage and grammar crucial to the ealry stages of writing, it is exceedingly important in producing the final product. We never seem to have a problem with someone else copyediting our scholarly work. I mean, we are appalled if a journal or a book publisher does not send our manuscript to a professional copyeditor, for it is only after we have accepted or rejected the changes suggested by the copyeditor that we feel that the manuscript is ready for typesetting. Then, even before the final printing, we always diligently proofread our work and get someone else (in my case my lovely wife) to proofread it too. All of these finishing touches prove that a finalized piece of scholarly work only becomes better with professional editorial help, and that writing and publishing is never really an isolated, individual effort.
If we are okay with accepting help from professional copyeditors and from our friends, then using Gramamrly is juts another source for editorial help and we should have no qualms about using it. After all, most of us already rely on the spell and grammar check offered by the word processing programs that we use.
Can Using Gramamrly Automate Your Writing?
The short answer is NO. Using Gramamrly can enhance the clarity of your writing and enable you to use language and grammar more precisely, but Gramamrly cannot WRITE for you: That you will have to do yourself. In fact, there is no software that can in any way replicate the rich diversity and complexity of a human mind and since scholarly writing is so much about the granular understanding of your field, no software can help you come up with original ideas or automate the compositional or organizational aspects of your essay. Using Gramamrly, however, can enable you to make better word choices, correct common grammar errors, and even perform contextual changes for clarity and variety as you write. In this sense then, using Gramamrly along with your own writing and thinking skills will add an extra layer of editorial and stylistic help to your writing, and that, in my opinion, can be exceptionally useful for scholars, especially those like me for whom English is not our native language.
How can Using Grammarly Help your Writing?
I have already explained what Gramamrly can do while you write. According its developer website, here are some of the functions it can perform for writers:
Grammarly automatically detects grammar, spelling, punctuation, word choice, and style mistakes in your writing. It’s easy to use:
Grammarly’s algorithms flag potential issues in the text and suggest context-specific corrections for grammar, spelling, wordiness, style, punctuation, and even plagiarism. Grammarly explains the reasoning behind each correction, so you can make an informed decision about whether, and how, to correct an issue. (Source: https://www.grammarly.com/faq#toc0)
Using Gramamrly as a Teaching Tool
Quite a few universities are now using Gramamrly as a tool in their writing composition classes. The students, in the process of using the software, also learn how to understand the Grammarly editorial suggestions within the context of their own writing. Quite a few professors also use Grammarly as a tool to check for plagiarism and the writers themselves can use it to check their own work to avoid any unintentional plagiarism. In fact, quite a few teachers find the software quite useful not only for its utility for their computer savvy students but also as a pedagogical tool in teaching grammar and style differently to a generation of students whose entire learning career revolves around using digital technologies. Thus, Gramamrly can also be used quite effectively as a wonderful teaching tool!
As I said above, while Garamamrly absolutely cannot write for you, I would not recommend it if the developers made any such claims, using Grammarly, however, can certainly help you getting your style and grammar right. And if you know anything about scholarly writing and publishing, especially as postcolonial literature scholars who might not be native English speakers, any help with issues of style and grammar is certainly likely to improve the quality of your writing! please feel free to share your own views or experiences of using Gramamrly in the comment section below.