How to use Grammarly to Improve Your Writing

Today we’re going to take a look at Grammarly, a helpful tool to sharpen your writing. This includes simple step-by-step instructions on submitting your document and running it through the Grammarly engine.

Full disclosure up front: Grammarly sponsors Shaggin the Muse and my novels, but it’s not exactly a form of monetary compensation. They gave me an opportunity to use Grammarly to its full potential, which is pretty awesome since I’d tested it out once or twice in the past and found it useful. Now I’m not trying to do a sales pitch here at all – I am not and never have been that sort of guy – but I do like to share things that might help other writers, and I think Grammarly has a lot to offer. I wanted to walk you guys through a pretty simple tutorial and show you what I’ve gained from using it in just the last few weeks. I mean, sure, I could talk about the benefits that I’ve seen, but I’d much rather show than tell, so I wrote up a brief tutorial on how to use it and what you can get.

I’m not getting paid for this beyond the sponsorship – I just want to give you guys another option. We all benefit from better books. To that end, I would like to let you know that this will soon be an ongoing series detailing some of the tools that writers can use; Scrivener is in the near future, if you’re interested in that one.

But today, Grammarly. First, obviously, you’ll need to sign up for a trial account or purchase one. This tutorial assumes that you’ve done one of those and have a login.

1. Open your document in Word or whatever other editing tool you’re using. For this tutorial, I’ll be using the current state of Chapter 2 from City of the Dead.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 1

2. Go to and log in.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 2

3. Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the control buttons; Paste, of course, allows you to paste any text that you’ve copied. Upload allows you to upload a text document. We’ll get to Start Review shortly, along with the plagiarism tool. Copy and Download provide methods to get your cleaned-up text out of the editor, and Clear allows you to remove the text that you’ve imported.

IMPORTANT NOTE: If you want to maintain your document’s formatting, you must use the Upload button to import and the Download button to export.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 3

4. Upload (or Copy and paste) the text from your Word document. I copied and pasted here just for simplicity’s sake.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 4

5. Click the Start Review button. You’ll get the option to choose what type of work you’re checking; obviously I default to creative, but there are some other great options. Once you’ve selected your paper type, click Start Review again.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 5

Note that Grammarly caps document size at under 20 pages; there is a very good reason for this, as it can take quite some time for even a 19 page document.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 6

Grammarly processes your document. Go grab a sandwich or something.

How to Use Grammarly -  Step 7

6. Once processing is complete, Grammarly populates the grammar information box on the right-hand side of the screen. The top of the box shows the number of issues found (this is not always an accurate measure of how well-written your document may be, as we’ll see), a numeric score (79 out of 100 is actually quite good), an option for a summary, and the option to save/print the report as a PDF. Below that are the issues that Grammarly found, with the number of those “violations” indicated in the blue bubble.  Click on the Summary link.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 8

Summary offers the same information from before, along with the number of enhancement suggestions and the meaning of your score.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 9

7. Close the summary and click on the first highlight item that you see in the text; in this instance, it’s “the bed”. A grammar pop-up appears, offering you the option to see either a short explanation of the issue or a long explanation. You also have the option of taking a question to the community or ignoring the issue. As you can see, this example is actually quite fine (“the” is a necessary article in this sentence), but not all issues are false positives, so you need to really go through it with a fine-tooth comb. I click the Ignore button for false positives.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 10

8. To make changes, click on the text inside the highlighted area and make your changes as you normally would; you can see how I’ve altered the sentence below. When you’re finished, click the Next-> link.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 11

As you can see below, Grammarly may not be perfect and have some suggestions that don’t really work, which is why the app is not a replacement for an editor, just a method to strengthen your work via proofreading.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 12

9. When you’ve finished running through your changes, go to the top and click the Review Changes button. As usual, you will be able to choose your paper type. Click Review Changes again, and Grammarly will check your new version.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 13

10. Click the Summary button and you can see the new ratings and suggestions; as you can see, the changes that I made on the first pass lifted the score from 79 to 93, a number with which I’m way more comfortable. At this stage, I’d feel okay sending it on to my editor.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 14

11. Use the Copy and/or Download button to pull the information out of Grammarly.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 15

12. If you want to check another document, you need to click the Clear button. With this done, you can start the process all over again.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 16

Now let’s take a look at some of the other features that I enjoy about Grammarly. You’ll want to click on the Dashboard link.

How to Use Grammarly - Step 17

Below is the dashboard view. We’ll talk about the components in a bit.

How to Use Grammarly - Dashboard

First is what I think of as the Documents Checked and Statistics subsection. This shows the number of documents that you’ve checked, the average score, and the trend over time. You can view this for week, month, and year.

How to Use Grammarly - Documents Checked

Next is the Grammar subsection, which shows the most common issues found in documents which you’ve submitted. You can click on the category name to find out more information on just what that section entails.

How to Use Grammarly - Grammar Count

On the right-hand side is your personal grammar handbook. You don’t get this one right away; Grammarly has to run through a few documents before it can identify the items that you might need to focus on.

How to Use Grammarly - Grammar Handbook

Clicking on the book opens a view that shows some of the grammar issues that you might need to review. Just a note, the one below shows up for me because of the amount of dialogue that I use. Every single instance of this has been related to dialogue, so it’s best to be smart when it comes to usage here. I suspect that a larger sample size will enable Grammarly to truly identify those grammar rules that present a problem for me (and I do have a few). I see this feature having a lot of potential, but it’s still pretty early on in my Grammarly experience, so I can only offer you a real thumbnail view.

How to Use Grammarly - Grammar Handbook 2So there you go, a high-level view of how to run your document through and a glimpse of how things work. Let me know if you have any questions or comments, or would like to see anything more in-depth.

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  1. I had no idea this tool existed, and I’m really excited about the opportunity it provides to make my work as grammar-tight as it can be for Beta readers. The only thing that worries me is the 20 page limit. My book is over 400 pages, which is 200 times that I’ll need to run Grammerly to get a full result. Did you run yours along with the writing, or wait until “THE END” to start feeding in chunks? Can you run two instances at once, and be working through one set of revisions while another group of pages is being examined?


    • Jonathan D Allen

      I actually think that the Word plugin might be better for a whole novel, but I’m having some permission conflicts at present. I’m going to contact the Grammarly folks and see if they can fix it. Good question about two instances at once…I’ll test that and get back to you. But yes, I’ve been running it as I go along rather than all at once. I check whatever I’ve written at the end of the day.

      • Oh, I wish I’d started the grammar checking section by section like you do, but when I started my novel, I really believed it was going to be a short novella. As the book grows, so does my dread of the eventual (monster) spell and grammar check. I will definitely keep Grammarly and this tutorial in mind when I get there.

  2. I owe you big for this one. I tried Grammarly a few years back and wasn’t impressed so I stuck with StyleWriter. Your post intrigued me so I gave Grammarly another try last night. Last night ended, finally, at 3 AM. I’m blown away, and I’m a new user. If you don’t mind, I’m going to mention and link to your post when I compare StyleWriter and Grammarly. Thanks again for taking the time to share.

    • Jonathan D Allen

      That’s great news, Bert 🙂 It’s definitely improved since the last time I tried it. Glad it helped you! And sure, go ahead and mention me, and send me the link, I can forward it on to Grammarly and they might be able to set you up.

  3. Wow, Jon, thanks for the comprehensive guide.

  4. There’s a plagiarism search? I’d be tempted to run my students’ papers through it.

    I may try this service on my WIP. Every little bit helps.

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