Recently I’ve been asked about the acceptability of Grammarly as a tool for students to use to improve their writing. I’m not a fan of Grammarly, and I strongly prefer my students not use it. My concerns about Grammarly are two-fold.
First, Grammarly is to good writing what McDonald’s is to good hamburgers. McDonald’s makes hamburgers, millions of them a day, and those burgers are adequate. I’m hungry, I eat a McDonald’s hamburger, and I’m no longer hungry. McDonald’s hamburgers are cheap, mass produced, and identical. A good hamburger, in contrast, is prepared by hand, seasoned by hand, cooked to just-rightness with a watchful eye and an understanding of what pleases the human palate.
Grammarly encourages McDonald’s writing. It’s adequate. The end result communicates well enough, clearly enough, but is likely to diminish the personality of the writer, to mute the writer’s voice. I don’t like that. Teaching “voice” is for me the hardest thing to teach about writing, but that doesn’t mean voice isn’t important. I want my students to write, to write well, and to write in such a way that best expresses their individualities.
My second concern about Grammarly is more philosophical. Grammarly represents yet another way to externalize human knowledge. My fear is that a student who is just starting to master the intricacies of the English language, who is just starting to hear his own voice, who is just starting to pay heed to his own voice, will develop a reliance on Grammarly’s artificial brain, and that artificial brain, no matter how cleverly programmed, is not a human brain. Reliance on Grammarly might produce an essay that earns an A, but it doesn’t produce a student who understands the English language, who understands how to write well in a way that best expresses the contents of his heart.
For further consideration, these two articles do a fine job of explaining some of Grammarly’s shortfalls.
"Grammarly Premium Makes A Lot Of Mistakes" by Jacob Bergdahl
"Grammarly Fixed a Security Vulnerability, but It Still Can’t Fix Our Writing" by Jacob Brogan
The Knights of the Mightier Pen gather in the hallowed halls of the Regis School in Houston, Texas, to share their tales and poems.