I have a secret. I nearly failed grammar in middle school. In fact, I barely passed it in high school. I think I have a pretty strong grasp on writing when it comes to choosing the best words to convey my thoughts, but when it comes to things like sentence structure, I still have some major issues to overcome. For example, I totally overuse the comma. I love the comma! It’s such a cute little little tail-looking blob. On the other hand, I despise the semi-colon. Maybe it has something to with associating the colon with my large intestine. No part of a sentence should have the same name as the place where food prepares to exit your body. I’m lost when it comes to the em-dash, especially since the powers that be keep changing the rules. My editor at one of my freelance writing gigs often points out that I tend to go from singular to plural in long lists, and often use “that” where I should use “who.”

I’m even worse when it comes to academic writing, as I find the rules too stringent to allow any sort of creative though. MLA formatting was, and always will be, my enemy. I’ll spare you my rant on how it’s by far the least efficient method of citation, looks hideous within the body of the paper, and is completely inconsistent when it comes to the “works cited” rules. I like APA format. It’s clean, it’s pretty, it works. Yes, I’m very bitter about MLA. I once wrote a great paper for British Literature, and the professor told me the paper was perfect, but it still received a “C” grade because my MLA formatting was a little off. A C! That’s unacceptable!

I was given the opportunity to try out Grammarly, an online automated proof-reader and grammar checker. It’s really easy to use- just copy your text from your word document, paste it into the dashboard, and hit “start review.” It takes less than a minute to scan your paper for over 150 different types of errors, from punctuation to dangling modifiers to passive voice issues. When it’s finished, little balloons pop up over each error explaining why there is a potential issue and what you should do about it. In some cases, it offers suggestions on alternate words. While I did find a   few false alarms, overall Grammarly did a great job of catching issues and helping me fix them. My favorite part, though, is that if it finds a citation (or something that it feels should be cited), it tells you how to format those citations in MLA, APA, and Chicago style.

Grammarly can also scan your paper for duplicate content, which is great for avoiding unintentional plagiarism. I would definitely recommend this site to high school and college students, or anyone else who writes a lot of academic papers. I would also recommend it to those who want to improve their grammar in other types of professional writing. Although Grammarly is  not really set up for conversational writing (so you’ll get snagged on issues like long sentences and colloquialisms), it’s still great for making sure your verbs agree with your nouns and modifiers aren’t left dangling in the wind.