A Five-hour Comparison of Grammarly and ProWritingAid

close up photo of gray typewriter

As a writer, I want my writing to be as good as I possibly can. English is my secondary language, so I’ve been using Grammarly to clean up my English for years and am very happy with it. However, ProWritingAid seems to be a much-loved alternative, so am I missing out? Should I change? The readability test in WordPress loathes my writing, flagging passive voice, few transition words, and repetitions. So I have this nagging feeling I should do something. Is ProWritingAid the answer?

Although Grammarly has improved with sentence structure over the past six months, apparently improving checks for clarity and engagement, I’ve finally tested the ProWritingAid.

I first heard of ProWritingAid on Joanna Penn’s podcast, and we all trust Joanna, right?

My bias here is that I am a Grammarly user considering switching, not the other way around, meaning I wrote the text in Grammarly, accepted most of the suggestions, then pasted the text into ProWritingAid to see what more ProWritingAid offered. I am not sure this is a fair test, but it is what I did.

The following accounts for my first few hours with the ProWritingAid:

1) Test one: Google Docs integration. It probably works great, but it asks for full google account access. This is probably standard practice, and I am naive, but this is scary. No, no. no.

2) Test two: Using the web editor, meaning cutting and pasting text chunks, feels safer, so let’s do that. The free version has a 500-word limit, and I do not know of any other limitations off the top of my head.

I paste a problem text into the web editor in sizable chunks, and ProWritingAid’s rapports give me suggestions and advice that is helpful. I actually learn stuff, so this is good.

3) Test three: I want to speed this up for longer texts, so I activate the trial period.

My workflow suggests the final edit pass is on the Windows desktop, not my Chromebook, so I’ll try that.

I enter the exact problem text into the desktop app. Everything seems to work fine, so this should be very helpful.

4) Test four: ProWritingAid now warns against long texts, although Joanna Penn mentions you could load the whole book. I get this, my aging desktop has seen better days, and I suppose this is complex.

I accept that this will not work perfectly, but I want to see what the software can do.

So I load my 850-page OpenOffice world guide, gleefully expecting ProWritingAid to collapse. 20-ish minutes later, as I am writing this, the text is still loading. Currently at 66% Score, with nearly 3000 errors (probably many fancy fantasy names) and suggestions. Editing the entire document in a single file will not work, at least with my current desktop computer. However, it did not collapse until I asked for the Combo rapport, which I think is terrific. Initially, I was not sure what happened — did it crash or just slow down completely? Hard to say, but nothing happens for the next ten minutes, so I guess that answers my question. Still, pretty impressive.

5) Test five. This is not a test I planned, but I got it anyway. The ProWritingAid software starts with the previous file, which crashed above and now crashes again. Did I break the program? Probably not, but the “close” file option is grayed out, and the app is spinning its wheels. Deleting the 850-page test file broke the loop. I wisely made a copy dedicated to this test, so kudos to me.

So what does that mean for me?

The text you’re reading now was written in Grammarly, which the app gave a 99% score after many corrections and improvements. This also included advice for “Empty phrase” errors I do not understand. Reloading the app, the nonsensical errors were gone. Grammarly reported different errors upon reloading, so refreshing the text appears to be a good idea.

In the end, Grammarly reported two suggestions I disagreed with (or at least I did not understand, so I left them in the text).

ProWritingAid gave this text a 70% score, catching an “–” for an em-dash. The other suggestions are about structure, including one passage with passive voice. Also, I did not change “very happy” to “thrilled” which sounds excessive, and I got a “missing verb” error I did not understand.

Also, changing “complete” with “ultimate” sounds wrong in this context.

Looking at the problem text, the text you’re reading now, and a couple others I’ve tried the past few hours, I need more help with passive voice, transition words, sticky sentences, glue words, and overall readability, especially with non-fiction. Note, I did not know any of these terms, except passive voice, before trying ProWritingAid.

At one point, Grammarly clearly pointed out a monotonous passage, which ProWritingAid did not catch or probably buried in the rapports.

AI-assisted writing is loads of fun.

In conclusion, after perhaps five hours of working with ProWritingAid, I think I will learn more from ProWritingAid than from Grammarly. At least, WordPress approved upon uploading this post.

But is ProWritingAid actually better? I have no idea.

Image by Pexels Free Photos.

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