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Art, Artificial Intelligence, and the Birth of Two Million Words

How Grammarly improves work and attitude

Grammarly's a "unicorn" AI company
Unicorn at keyboard in subway station

A riddle for you:

What do TWENTY MILLION people, a UNICORN, and Artificial Intelligence have in common?


Grammarly is a digital writing app. We’ve all heard of it. TWENTY MILLION of us use it every day. This innovative software is built with the power of Artificial Intelligence and works with Natural Language Processing, NLP, for short. Grammarly has been recognized as one of the world’s most innovative AI companies and is known as a “unicorn,” a term coined by a venture capitalist to describe the rarity of a privately held start-up company valued at over one BILLION dollars.

In the world where written communication is visible everywhere, Grammarly’s goal was to help people communicate more effectively. Think about it. In addition to formal kinds of writing like reports and letters, we are constantly creating content in emails, texts, and websites. Installing Grammarly helps prevent typos and spelling errors that would make us look less than polished. Whether we write on our phones, our desktops, or our tablets, Grammarly’s Artificial Intelligence makes us look smart.

I’m an emotional writer. Ideas flow from the cross-circuitry of my unique brain, and stories pump out of my heart. I used to believe that Artificial Intelligence was a hard-edged, metal-stiff robotic word program that had no place in artistic endeavors.

Using Grammarly has convinced me that there’s a powerful confluence between mind and machine that will gird up the foundations of language. It is, after all, a good thing when correct grammar is applied to everyday communication by millions of people around the world.

Astounding facts about Grammarly:

  • Grammarly generates more than 350,000 suggestions every minute.

  • Twenty million people around the world use it today, three times as many users as in 2017.

  • Because of the number of users, Grammarly can make use of BIG DATA. Hundreds of terabytes have been analyzed, leading to the increased ability of Artificial Intelligence to make valid suggestions.

“Using AI techniques around machine learning and natural language process, it is constantly synthesizing new words and phrases and styles to improve the help it provides to users, to solve what is essentially an everyday problem for many people: writing well.” — Ingrid Lunden in TechCrunch
  • During the pandemic, and until the end of 2020, Grammarly is giving FREE Premium subscriptions to non-profit organizations, a charitable donation in the range of $500 million dollars in the U.S. alone.

Background on Grammarly

The idea for Grammarly came when Max Lytvyn developed a software program that detected plagiarism. After researching the question of WHY people plagiarize, Lytvyn started thinking about a program that would check grammar, punctuation, and spelling.

In 2009 Max Lytvyn, Alex Schevchecnko, and Dmytro Lider, all Ukrainian-born, banded together to found Grammarly. The software initially checked basic grammar and spelling. Soon it evolved into something more complex. Language rules were embedded into the program and as more data was analyzed and algorithms refined, the program began to be able to determine complex language rules.

People love it because everyone wants to write as a competent, educated person.

Grammarly was profitable from its inception. The developers bootstrapped the organization from its founding in 2009 until 2017 when they generated $90 million in funding. In 2019, another funding campaign produced $110 million, led by the investor, General Catalyst.

Grammarly’s income is from subscriptions. It’s known as a “Freemium” service, which means that the program is free with additional features added on for a “Premium” subscription. Premium features include a plagiarism checker, vocabulary suggestions, and a readability scale that tells your FK score. (The FK score is called the Flesch-Kincaid score and it uses a words-per-sentence and syllables-per-word formula to determine reading ease. Many commercial clients request that you write at about a 6th — 8th-grade level so that content is easily understood. That’s approximately a 60–80 score on the FK scale.)

Many Grammarly users are working with the free model. The Premium subscription can be purchased in three ways: If paid annually, the cost is $139.95; quarterly, $59.95; monthly, $29.95.

Grammarly never sells or rents your information, even with the Free version.

Getting an unexpected boost with Grammarly

Grammarly is a good tool for checking for typos and spelling errors. It’s also a FABULOUS mental-boost.

Grammarly, my once-shunned, artificial rival, is now my biggest cheerleader.

Every week I get a report from Grammarly. She tracks my longevity, my productivity, my ability, and my attitude, traits I could NEVER subjectively evaluate on my own.

Artificial Intelligence comments on my longevity in the field

In August, I switched my Grammarly account from my personal account to my business account. Technically, I’ve been using the service for almost two years, but since my new start on August 11th of this year, Grammarly has sent me these encouraging notes:

  • “You’re on a roll! 22 week Hot Streak! Persistence, tenacity, grit — whatever you want to call it, you have it in spades! Keep on writing! You’re only a few weeks away from a six-month streak!

  • Did you know: Persistence pays off. It’s hard to imagine Joseph Heller’s famous novel Catch-22 by any other name, but in fact, the title went through several iterations before publication, including Catch-18, Catch-11, Catch-17, and Catch-14.

Call me silly, juvenile, or needy. That message was a mental boost. It reminded me that I’m still consistently working, even when it hasn’t been easy.

Grammarly acknowledges and admires my productivity

I work five to six days of the week. I don’t have word count goals or timed limits to my schedule. Instead, I work on a project-based timeline. “Today, I’m going to draft one article, revise another, or do preliminary research.” Word counts seemed artificial and unnecessary.

So I was flabbergasted and excited when Grammarly wrote me a letter saying that I had written MORE THAN TWO MILLION WORDS in nine months! (2,154,547 to be exact.)

That’s about 239,400 words per month….about 8000 words PER DAY. ..99% more productive than other users.

Now, I could be discouraged by thinking that with all that effort, I should have way more income and dozens of new clients. No such luck. But instead of being discouraged, I choose to be thrilled. Wow. I really am working. Hard. I’m producing content each and every day.

In nine months, I’ve given birth to two books worth of words, and Grammarly was my coach the whole time.

A writing assistant that scientifically evaluates my ability

My AI writing assistant is also a teacher, highlighting my ability, sending me report cards that inform me of my weaknesses: I got a C+ last week, being more accurate than 78% of other writers. (But much of that grade comes from the rough draft stage where I’m typing quickly and obviously — not very accurately!) But the good thing is that even though I got a C in accuracy, I got an A in vocabulary, using more unique words than 98% of the group.

  • My most common error was a missing period.

  • My second-most-common error was the lack of a comma in a compound sentence.

  • I used unnecessary ellipses

  • I haven’t been able to teach Grammarly that I don’t always NEED or WANT an article before a noun, but I respect her persistence in telling me that I’ve omitted it.

Grammarly can even assess my attitude

Grammarly has a new tone detector, a helpful tool. I’m from an “old-school” background and taught formal research writing for years. You know the style: academic English with no abbreviations. No use of the word “you.” No contractions, sentence fragments, or slang. Having a tone detector makes sure I don’t sound like I have a stick up my — you know what — and can enjoy the relaxed style of common speech.

The Grammarly tone detector can detect 40 tones: formal, informal, sad, confident, informative, encouraging, and uncertain, just to name a few.

Last week, I had a new tone of “uncertain.” My Informative, Confident, and Encouraging, and Sad tones increased. My Friendly and Formal tones decreased. (It’s good that my formal decreased. Not so good about the friendly.)

My surprise discovery in Grammarly

I’ve been using Grammarly for almost two years, and I always looked at the little green or red circle at the end of my text, checking the number of errors. When I saw the number, I’d return to the text above to correct mistakes.

In case you don’t know this, you don’t have to go through that process. Simply click on the little Grammarly symbol at the end of your piece, and you’ll be directed back to a list of your errors. Plus, then she’ll give you a grade. You get a calculated score for your piece. Make sure that score is over 90.

Grammarly is an awesome coach, a writing assistant filled with infallible intelligence who is at my beck-and-call 24 hours every day.

I used to believe that art and artificial intelligence were not a good match. I was wrong. Writing from the heart is not hurt by robotic crawlers prowling through my sentences. My creative content is not stifled by a digital device that checks my text. My work is aided and abetted by that sophisticated, overly-smart, writing assistant, Grammarly.

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