Is Grammarly Cheating? – Helpful Professor Explains

About: Hi, I’m Chris Drew (Ph.D) and I run things around here. I’m an Education expert and university professor. I wanted to let you know that if you download or purchase Grammarly through the links on this page, I’ll get a small commission from Grammarly at no extra cost to you.

Grammarly can be SUPER good for your grades.

But some students feel nervous that using Grammarly is cheating.

It may feel like you’re “not doing the work yourself” or that you’re getting an unfair advantage.

And the truth is you ARE getting a HUGE advantage over other students who don’t use grammarly.

But, does that mean you shouldn’t use it?

In my opinion, Grammarly is a great tool for college students. I recommend it to all my students.

It should lead to better grades because your writing will be much clearer. In fact, Grammarly claims that 98% of students see better grades after using it.

Quick Answer: No, Grammarly is almost never cheating. There’s a free version – so give it a go yourself and see if you’re one of the 98% of students who get better grades with Grammarly.

Get Grammarly For Free Here.

What is Grammarly?

Grammarly is an app that helps students to edit their assignments.

But it’s not just a spell checker. It provides surprisingly good suggestions on how to make your sentences clearer, shorter and easier to read.

It’s a real game changer for many students.

When you hover your cursor over words with lines under them a box will pop up that suggests a change.

Is Grammarly Cheating?

So, Grammarly helps you to see that there’s a problem that you need to fix. And it gives a range of suggestions for writing your work more clearly.

So, Grammarly helps you to check your work to make sure you haven’t made any errors. It points you towards sentences that it thinks (based on its algorithms) don’t seem to be written well, and tells you how to write them better.

What’s the Difference between Grammarly and Word Spellcheck?

Quick Answer: Grammarly is FAR better than Microsoft Word Spellcheck. In fact, they’re just not even comparable.

Grammarly will not only tell you when you have a spelling error. It’ll also:

  • Tell you when a word doesn’t quite make sense.
  • Show you how to write shorter, clearer sentences.
  • Identify plagiarism for you.
  • Provide very intuitive suggestions on how to make improvements to your sentences.

It’s not just a spell checker. It’s a writing assistant.

Is Grammarly Cheating?

99% of the time: No!

Grammarly can:

  • Point you to sentences you should think about editing to make them clearer.
  • Give you advice on grammar and spelling changes you could make.
  • Allow you to decide whether to make changes to a sentence.

Grammarly cannot:

  • Tell you what to write about to get higher grades.
  • Give answers to your assignment questions.
  • Get grammar right every time.
  • Automatically make changes to your work.
summary of what grammar checkers can and can't do
What Grammar Checkers Can DoWhat Grammar Checkers Can’t Do
They can point you to sentences you should think about editing.They can’t get grammar right every time.
They can give you advice on changes you could make.They can’t automatically make changes to your work.
They allow you to decide whether to make changes to sentences.They can’t tell you what to write about.
They can’t give you answers to your assignment questions.

My Verdict: No, Grammar Checkers Aren’t Cheating.

It can’t Give you Answers

Grammarly doesn’t go anywhere near giving you answers to your issues. If you’re writing an essay on a character analysis, Grammarly has no idea what that is! It can’t tell you what to write, at all!

But, once you’ve written something, it’ll show you how to write it more clearly.

It Doesn’t Think for You

This software doesn’t think for you. It won’t make any changes to your work – just suggestions.

It’s up to you to decide whether the grammar checkers have given you the right advice. I find that I actually decline their advice a good percentage of the time.

You’re Not Paying Anyone to Write your Essay

One of the most common forms of cheating at college is using an essay writing service. You send them your essay topic and word count, wait a few days, and they send you back a completed essay.

This is a HUGE risk, and definitely cheating. Students who use an essay service are paying someone to think for them. They’re basically skipping the important part: the learning!

With Grammarly, you’re in charge of what’s written and it’s your job to think of what to write. You’re just using a writing assistant to write … better!

Wait … What about Grammar Tests for Students Learning English?

Quick Answer: If you’re being specifically tested on your grammar and spelling, then Grammarly may be considered cheating. Check with your teacher.

For students who are studying English as a second language, your tests may be assessing your ability to use the English language in writing.

Similarly, for elementary school students being tested specifically on writing skills, your teacher may think you’re cheating when using Grammarly.

If you’re in this situation, ask your teacher before using Grammarly.

But, if you’re just doing a general essay in high school or college … no, you’re definitely not cheating when using grammarly.

How and When to Use Grammarly

Quick Answer: I suggest that – once you’ve written your draft – you just spend 5 minutes going through the suggestions that Grammarly provides and approving or declining them.

You can even do this with the free version. It’ll give you spelling, grammar and punctuation suggestions.

The best thing about this is that it’ll actually save you A LOT of time.

It’s a fast, simple and effective way to edit your essay in just 5 minutes.

I’d still suggest editing your work on your own. You should still print out your essay and read it word-for-word. Check to make sure your facts are correct, you’ve reference regularly, and you’ve met all the requirements of the marking criteria.

But Grammarly should be an important part of your editing process.

Is Grammarly Free?

Quick Answer: Yes! There is a free version that you can download right now. Head over to Grammarly and hit the green “add to Chrome” button. Done!

If you want the premium version, which has better functions such as plagiarism checking, then you can pay extra for it. But, you can totally get started for free!

Free vs. Premium

The free version will get you started. If you like it, you can keep it for free. If you want more features, you can buy the premium version. It’s that simple!

The free version will:

  • Provide spell check advice.
  • Ensure your essay is ‘concise’ (i.e. easy to read).
  • Suggest sentence structure improvements.
  • Improve your writing style.

The premium version will:

  • Suggest vocabulary improvements.
  • Check for plagiarism
  • Give you suggestions to make sure your writing fits the “academic writing genre” (i.e. it looks like a well written essay for college).

Does it Connect to Microsoft Word and Smartphones?

Quick Answer: Yes! You can download a plugin to connect it up to Microsoft Word. You can also use it on browsers, when writing emails, and even when writing on online forums.

There is also a smartphone app. The app will replace your traditional phone keyboard with a grammarly keyboard so you can get suggestions whilst tapping away on your phone.

In fact, I find that I’m constantly using Grammarly when writing facebook messages online. It’ll pop up and tell me I got some spelling wrong and in one click, I can fix it!

How do I use It?

I’ve actually found that the Grammarly browser interface is the best method for me. Once I’ve completed my essay draft, I upload it straight onto Grammarly (when I’m logged on) and do all my edits from there – it’s an easy no frills way to get started with the app.

Are there Other Writing Assistant Alternatives?

Yes! Of course, you could pay someone to edit your work for you. But, there are also two major competitors: ProWritingAid and Ginger.

I did a 2-week case study comparing ProWritingAid, Grammarly and Ginger. My results came back showing that personally, I find Grammarly to be far more accurate. Of course, your results may differ because choosing to ‘accept’ or ‘decline’ suggestions is totally subjective.

But my results found that:

  • I accepted Grammarly’s suggestions 80% of the time.
  • I accepted Ginger’s suggestions 42% of the time.
  • I accepted ProWritingAid’s suggestions 32% of the time.

So, that’s why I use and recommend Grammarly as the best grammar checker writing assistant out there at the moment.

Here are those results from my personal case study:

summary of my accuracy test comparing of grammarly, prowritingaid, and ginger

*Note: These are the results from my personal (and entirely subjective) test. Your preferences on what suggestions you want to ‘accept’ or ‘ignore’ will differ.

Table Summary: Helpful Professor’s Accuracy Test

SoftwareSuggestionsAcceptedAcceptance Rate

If you want to read the full case study, check it out here.

What About AI Writing Tools?

In 2021, some writing tools came on the market that use content AI generated by GPT-3. These glorified content spinners will attempt to write an essay for you (and do a terrible job of it). Not only are they completely unacceptable in any academic institution, they’re also ethically out of bounds. Don’t use them.

Final Thoughts

I recommend Grammarly to all my students.

You can’t use Grammarly to ‘cheat’ in your essay. Sure – Grammarly can make your writing clearer and therefore get you better grades, but it is still your job to find the information and write your draft.

The software just gets you to look over your work once again and asks you: “Did you really mean this, or did you mean something else?”

So, at the end of the day, you’re still in charge of making the right decisions. Grammarly is just a useful (and powerful) tool that helps you look for errors in your writing.

The Bottom Line: Seeing as Grammarly is free, it’s worth giving it a try. Once you’ve gotten started, you’ll wonder how you lived without it!

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Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education. [Image Descriptor: Photo of Chris]

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