The editor in Microsoft Word just got a huge boost (a lot of things in Microsoft 365 are getting significant enhancements), but I tend to depend on Grammarly as the premier editing tool for those of us who write for a living. Given that I am using both editors in sequence, first launching the Microsoft editor and then, when done, launching Grammarly, I thought I would share my impressions of both products–since they do supplement each other but cannot yet replace each other.
Let us make a quick comparison between Grammarly, the tool I love to hate, and the new editor in the updated Microsoft 365 bundle.
The old Word Editor was light in terms of feature richness. Yes, it would help with spelling and some words in context problems, such as using the wrong form of “here” in a sentence, but it missed a lot of stuff. The new editor is far more complete and will sub-categorize its suggestions into two general areas and then several sub-sections. Under Corrections, its groups Spelling and Grammar, and under Refinements, it groups Clarity, Conciseness, Formality, Punctuation Conventions and Vocabulary.
Then, when you edit, it provides feedback on the things it thinks you did wrong by category. Its advantages are that it is blindingly fast, and it is far more comprehensive than the prior editor ever hoped to be. However, it does not have much depth; for instance, in the last column I wrote after the Microsoft Editor completed its work, Grammarly found more than 70 items that still needed to be addressed. This is because the Microsoft feature mostly focused on making sure I only had one space behind a period, getting rid of all of my contractions (“is not” instead of “isn’t”) and that I was capitalizing things correctly (though often did not realize the capitalizations were on purpose).
Grammarly is a whole different beast. It organizes its advice line by line, and it generates a ton of advice. It is not unusual for the tool to point out things that need correcting in numbers that are easily 10x to 20x what the Microsoft tool wants me to address. It doesn’t do much automatically, either; it will look for consistency in things like capitalization of a word and blanket fix that problem; but for others, such as punctuation, you have to go and review each incredibly tedious suggestion. It makes it so I don’t look forward to finishing anything, because I dread the Grammarly step, and it is tedious and very time-consuming.
While it doesn’t subsegment as the Microsoft tool does, it does aggressively attempt to eliminate passive sentences, dangling modifiers, sentences it finds too complicated, hard to read sentences, unclear antecedents (which I use a lot), and tons of punctuation recommendations. It often gets into a loop where it recommends two things that disagree with each other so, when you fix one, it flags something else that, when corrected, returns the prior recommendation.
Much of what it recommends could be automated, so you don’t have to click through every single line, and while it does make some complex recommendations for changes that you just have to click on, more often it just tells you to fix the sentence without much guidance on how to do it.
Using Both Together
When using the new Microsoft Editor first, it does cut down the number of recommendations from Grammarly shortening the editing process but, even with both editors, some things still get dropped through the cracks–mostly because neither editor indeed attempts to understand the sentences and both seem to be working off limited training. The lack of helpful advice makes the editing process seem to take longer than it needs to. For instance, the first sentence of this paragraph was tagged as “hard to read” by Grammarly, but I don’t think it is exceedingly difficult to read at all; it’s just longer than I’d like.
The New Microsoft Editor is impressively fast and far more comprehensive than the old one, but it still isn’t in the same league as Grammarly. Grammarly needs more automation, though, so the editing process with the tool isn’t so tedious and maybe some better global adjustments so that it doesn’t feel like you are always trying to write a doctoral dissertation and the advice conforms better to the writer’s style. The result seems to be far drier than I’d like, though admittedly with far fewer mistakes.
So, for now, I recommend using both tools in sequence, and we’ll see if either can evolve to be the one editor, we can live with going forward.
Rob Enderle is a principal at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and a longtime contributor to QuinStreet publications and Pund-IT.