A student’s question highlights a few important points about editing apps like Grammarly and Pro Writing Aid.
So, you’re using the free version of a program like Grammarly and you’re considering paying for the premium version. After all, there seem to be an awful lot of alerts that you’re missing out on because you’re not a paid user. But, is that really in your best interest?
“Is paying for premium versions of grammar software worth the investment?”
This question was brought up during my “How to Shop for Professionals” class, and we were specifically speaking about finding, vetting, and hiring literary professionals like editors and illustrators. Using a grammar checker to go through your 80,000-word science fiction novel is not something I would recommend for most authors. Since you’re going to hire a copy editor anyway, paying for the premium version of grammar software is just more money out of your pocket for the same service.
“But isn’t a computer algorithm more accurate than a human?”
Not in my experience. The problem with a lot of grammar apps is that the program just isn’t sophisticated enough to be able to make judgments about things like style and context (don’t even get me started on character dialogue!). This means that the program may highlight something as being incorrect when it’s really fine. For example, if you were to write ‘Dam,’ on a line by itself, your spellchecker might not alert you because it knows the word ‘dam’ and sees that it is spelled correctly. But if your intention was to have a character think ‘Damn!’ then the algorithm hasn’t helped you at all. Whereas, a human reading the context of the scene would immediately catch that this is the wrong word being used.
“Okay…but what if I’m not going to hire a copy editor for my book?”
Then, by all means, get every bit of help you can! If you don’t think you can afford a professional copy editor, paying for a program to help you out is still better than letting the grammar mistakes fall where they may.
Whether you are preparing to publish independently or to start sending your queries to agents or acquisitions editors, making sure your copy is clean is always a good idea. If you can afford to get a professional copy edit, that’s always best. But, if you can’t, algorithms are certainly better than nothing. When you get to the copy editing stage of your manuscript development, just make sure you make the decision that works best for you, your bank account, and your publication goals!
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