Grammarly terms of service

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Dante's Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions

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Thanks for posting this, Robinne. It's very alarming—proof that we should all read the terms of service—but, who does that? It's unbelievable to me that a company would use such insidious tactics to get authors to sign away the rights to their work.

I've long found Grammarly to be the most frustrating combination of being a useful spelling and grammar checker, but also a damned annoying and interfering obstruction. I'm not alone in finding it maddening:

I'm Breaking Up With Grammarly | The Digital Reader

There are similar free apps around, which I'll be investigating—and, I'll be reading their terms of service!

Hmm, I just found languagetool.org which has a free app, and looking through their Privacy Policy it appears that they don't store or assume rights to any work uploaded for checking. I'll give them a try, after removing Grammarly, (that's funny—the Grammarly app doesn't recognise its own name, underlining Grammarly in red—asking me if I want to add it to the dictionary. :p )

Here's a guide to tools to improve your writing:

Thirteen Great Tools That Will Make Your Writing Shine | The Digital Reader
 
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A fellow writer pointed out this post to me today regarding Grammarly's somewhat alarming terms of service. Interesting...I've never been tempted to use Grammarly, but I know plenty of people who do use it.
Alarming indeed! Like you, I don't use it, but wow, now I have even more reason not to.
 
How bizarre of Grammarly! I can't see how they could really benefit but it sounds ominous.
I imagine it's all to do with them using human-generated text as fodder for AI algorithms -- both grammar recognition and targeted advertising.
It would also make a tremendous asset that could be traded; for example, to marketeers or researchers.

I doubt it has anything to do with ripping off professional authors. It is, I suspect, another example of ill-conceived data harvesting in the interests of maximising revenue.

When so many online services are offered for free (at least in some form), you have to ask yourself: What's the product here? What's being monetized?

The answer is you.
 
Already had an intense dislike for this overbearing piece of nonsense ware, but ho-ly hell! That is one crazy and underhand tactic! Thanks for bringing it to our attention!
 
Intrigued by the legal ramifications of Grammarly's fine print of laying claim to an author's work, I contacted Nate Hoffelder at The Digital Reader to see what he thought. He'd become irritated with Grammarly's annoying way of working—see link in my post above.

Today, I received this reply from him:

Hi Paul,

Sorry for taking so long to get back to you.

I read it, and I ran this by a lawyer. We both think that this is the just usual boilerplate. It says they can use your content to provide the service you are paying for. It does not say they can do anything else with it.

Best,

Nate

So, perhaps their Terms of Service sound scarier than they are in reality. I still don't like the moronic way Grammarly 'corrects' spelling mistakes, so have gone over to Ginger back-up with LanguageTool, which are unobtrusive and efficient.
 
A fellow writer pointed out this post to me today regarding Grammarly's somewhat alarming terms of service. Interesting...I've never been tempted to use Grammarly, but I know plenty of people who do use it.

You May Not Enjoy Grammar, But Is It Worth Giving Away YOUR Content? by @LegallySavvySBO | She Owns It
I have had Grammarly for a while and found it annoying, but it hadn't occurred to me that there could be a darker side. So I've now removed it. Thanks for this information.
 
ProWritingAid offers the most comprehensive dissection of a writing sample, that I've come across, though to access all of the features requires a paid subscription. It found several inconsistencies and repetitions in the first chapter of my WIP, which other spell and grammar checkers missed. I was surprised that I hadn't noticed them, but know, from experience of my own and others' work, that a writer develops a peculiar form of blindness when editing.

Such writing aids definitely have their place in polishing a manuscript, but the blizzard of information offered by ProWritingAid is enough to induce paranoia! As a test of its cold-heartedness, and to console myself, I cut & pasted the opening paragraphs of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations which produced a similar number of comments about 'vague and abstract words' to my own writing, with a style summary of:
  1. Your sentence variety is very low and you're using too many short sentences. Varying your sentence lengths helps keep the reader interested. Add some longer sentences.
There, Mr Dickens, you've been told off! o_O
 
@Paul Whybrow I agree, that sort of thing does rather undermine the usefulness of these 'aids'. I feel they often turn into that particular exemplar of stupidity, the grammar assistant in Microsoft Office. If you ever want to see the world's worst piece of writing, just follow all the advice that thing gives you!
 
I used to work in TV, in post-production, and I remember a senior editor telling me, when I was a lowly junior assistant, that the various automatic functions you find in a digital editing suite had their place for those just starting out, but that I wouldn't see any professionals using them. I've never forgotten that, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the idea holds for writing aids and creative writers. We're talking about the tools of our craft. One thing is to use a tool to speed up a procedural task, it's quite another to have a machine second guessing your sentence structure.

Having said all that, I do use a spellchecker, but equally, I try to learn the spellings of words I write incorrectly.

This approach may be unnecessarily purist, but I thought I'd share. :)
 
I used to work in TV, in post-production, and I remember a senior editor telling me, when I was a lowly junior assistant, that the various automatic functions you find in a digital editing suite had their place for those just starting out, but that I wouldn't see any professionals using them. I've never forgotten that, and I have a sneaky suspicion that the idea holds for writing aids and creative writers. We're talking about the tools of our craft. One thing is to use a tool to speed up a procedural task, it's quite another to have a machine second guessing your sentence structure.

Having said all that, I do use a spellchecker, but equally, I try to learn the spellings of words I write incorrectly.

This approach may be unnecessarily purist, but I thought I'd share. :)
I agree. I think treating writing as a series of metrics, to be examined and evaluated, can utterly destroy the essence of what you're trying to create. Sure, you should use words correctly, format correctly and maybe even spell stuff correctly;) but you shouldn't have a tool dictate your sentence length and word usage.
 
I think treating writing as a series of metrics, to be examined and evaluated, can utterly destroy the essence of what you're trying to create.
Quite. I can't help but feel that an automated grammar tool is going to kill your voice pretty quick. If you're writing for business, say, you do want a neutral, standard style, but for creative writing...?

But.. another caveat... if you're using these tools to improve your grammar because that side of your craft is just budding, then I think they can be useful.
 
Quite. I can't help but feel that an automated grammar tool is going to kill your voice pretty quick. If you're writing for business, say, you do want a neutral, standard style, but for creative writing...?

But.. another caveat... if you're using these tools to improve your grammar because that side of your craft is just budding, then I think they can be useful.
Absolutely, as you said: its the difference between using a tool to learn a skill and using that tool in place of a skill.
 
Quite. I can't help but feel that an automated grammar tool is going to kill your voice pretty quick. If you're writing for business, say, you do want a neutral, standard style, but for creative writing...?

But.. another caveat... if you're using these tools to improve your grammar because that side of your craft is just budding, then I think they can be useful.
Well, I'm massively insecure about my punctuation, so used to find Grammarly quite handy. A copy editor once said I had a 'creative use of the semi-colon' (I blame Microsoft Word for that) and I've been paranoid ever since. But commas... commas can be bastards :) And before you say anything, I've read Eats, shoots and leaves and a few other books of the same ilk. I'm convinced that deep down I want to be so original that I can't be bothered with pesky punctuation.
 
Yeah, I knew when I ventured down this conversational alley that it was a contentious one. Punctuation certainly is pesky, there's no denying it. And grammar has that dry-as-old-bones thing about it, like the worst kind of pipe-smoking engineering student who has yet to start shaving (;)). But! Grammar is meaning, not some abstract thing you can separate from everyday language. For most of us, much of formal grammar is about labelling things we intuitively understand (by virtue of being functional native speakers). But once you get beyond that, and start seeing grammar as another tool in your writer's box, something you can play with to enhance voice, character and plot, it becomes a delight.

Whilst I'm pretty good at football, Archie don't know what he's doing, is the kind of thing my nephew from Brighton in southern England might say, using whilst instead of while and don't instead of doesn't.

I am three years living here, but never will I like it as much as the south. You understand me, no? is the kind of thing one of my Spanish friends might say, using am living instead of have been living, putting three years before here, and omitting the word for, etc.

The point is, understanding grammar, on a technical or intuitive level, is understanding language, and language is our stock in trade. If I'm trying to say anything with this evangelizing rant, it's that grammar can be fun. And learning to see it like that is perhaps the trick to killing our insecurities.
 
So many struggle with commas. It genuinely baffles me. Countless professional, published (many times over) authors use them incorrectly or leave them out when required. It drives me up the god damn wall!
READ YOUR WORK OUT LOUD! If you pause, you need a chuffing comma! Back away form the semi-colon until you have grasped the comma firmly with both hands!

GAH!

/me sits down and has a drink while muttering about people on his lawn...
:D
 
Grammar is meaning, not some abstract thing you can separate from everyday language.
This, this, a million times this! If it were more catchy, I would get this put on a T-shirt or have it tattooed on my ass!
This is also one of the reasons (though nowhere near the top of the pile) I loathe and despise social media. Social media isn't eroding the written word, it is destroying it with sledgehammers and a shit-eating grin.
 
Careful...

At seven in the morning [PAUSE] I went to the shop.

...no comma required there. ;)

@Rachel Caldecott-Thornton was quite right: grammar is a pesky thing.
Errr...actually, I would say there is. That is what commas do. They show you where the pauses are so you don't have to read the sentence, understand the meter of it, then read it again to understand what was said.
 
The example I gave above is one of those situations where the comma is optional in standard English. From Hart's rules on the Oxford Dictionaries website [I've not posted a link cos the page is behind a paywall]:

When a sentence is introduced by an adverb, adverbial phrase, or subordinate clause, this is often separated from the main clause with a comma:
  • Despite being married with five children, he revelled in his reputation as a rake
  • Surprisingly, Richard liked the idea

This is not essential, however, if the introductory clause or phrase is a short one specifying time or location:

  • In 2000 the hospital took part in a trial involving alternative therapy for babies
  • Before his retirement he had been a mathematician and inventor

Indeed, the comma is best avoided here so as to prevent the text from appearing cluttered.
 
@Rich. Yeah, its optional, but I dislike inconsistent rules. As someone who is a slow reader, I rely on punctuation - particularly commas - to supply me with the information I need to read something. If a rule is inconsistent, I just think it does more harm than good. Therefore: commas! Always commas!!!:D

FYI, that is not what I am complaining about when I bemoan published authors not using them correctly. Their crimes are much more heinous.
 
It is funny how people get their knickers in a twist about grammar. There was a nasty spat on Facebook the other day. Had it not been a virtual fight, with the ether in between, it could have been really nasty.

We all agree that commas are vital for the sense and feel of a sentence, but I sometimes get distracted by changing the emphasis of the phrase (like an actor reading the phone book in different styles).

Mind you, ignore me. I'm the lady, who while trying to explain to her son the results of a meeting about her Last Will and Testament, happily announced, "Whoever dies first inherits everything!" So what do I know?
 
You're right, Rachel, knickers will forever be twisted over this. The grammarians will never agree on everything. And as for inconsistent rules, Howard, in English, at least, we're stuck with them. Unlike many languages (French, Spanish, Icelandic...) English has no regulating body. We have dictionaries that reflect usage, but no institution that proclaims definitively on what's correct or otherwise. At best, we can talk about standard English. To talk about correct English is a non-starter.

"Whoever dies first inherits everything!"
Love it! I can imagine Grasshopper saying this to David Carradine in a episode of Kung Fu!
 
You're right, Rachel, knickers will forever be twisted over this. The grammarians will never agree on everything. And as for inconsistent rules, Howard, in English, at least, we're stuck with them. Unlike many languages (French, Spanish, Icelandic...) English has no regulating body. We have dictionaries that reflect usage, but no institution that proclaims definitively on what's correct or otherwise. At best, we can talk about standard English. To talk about correct English is a non-starter.


Love it! I can imagine Grasshopper saying this to David Carradine in a episode of Kung Fu!
Gosh, I used to love that series. Then later on I got hooked on Monkey and On the Water Front :) Thanks for the memory.
 
You're never going to find consistent rules across the board when it comes to comma usage.

The fact that they aren't there when you (that's a collective YOU, not directed at any one individual) think they should be, or vice versa, is not aways because the author is using them incorrectly. It's sometimes a matter of house style. It depends on which source the editors for that publisher use, or if an author uses an independent editor, which source that particular editor uses. Of if an author is self-published and didn't use an editor, well, who knows? ;)

However ... I assure you that no agent or publisher is going to reject a manuscript based solely on comma usage. If they do, that's not someone you want to work with anyway. :)

The important thing when writing your own work, with respect to commas, is that you use them consistently throughout the manuscript.

When there's a pause is not an accurate indication because we all speak differently and when you pause I might not, and vice versa. So as long as you are using them consistently throughout your work, that's all you really need to focus on. :)
 
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Dante's Circles of Hell, Reimagined for Linguistic Transgressions

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