Comparing Microsoft’s New Word Editor to Grammarly
Microsoft Word’s editor just got a huge boost (a lot of things in Microsoft 365 are getting significant improvements), but I tend to depend on Grammar as the premier editing tool for those of us who write for a living. Since I use both editors in order, first launching Microsoft editor and then when done launching Grammarly, I thought I’d share my thoughts on both products as they complement each other. but cannot yet replace themselves.
Let’s do a quick comparison between Grammarly, the tool I love to hate, and the new editor in the updated Microsoft 365 pack.
The old word editor was light in terms of feature richness. Yes, it would help with spelling and some words in context issues, like using the wrong form of “here” in a sentence, but a lot was missing. The new editor is much more complete and will sub-categorize its suggestions into two general areas and then into several sub-sections. Under Corrections, its Spelling and Grammar groups, and under Refinements, it includes Clarity, Concision, Formality, Punctuation Conventions and Vocabulary.
Then when you edit it provides comments on the things it thinks you did wrong by category. Its advantages are that it is incredibly fast and that it is much more complete than the previous editor had ever hoped for. However, it doesn’t have much depth; for example, in the last column I wrote after publisher Microsoft finished their job, Grammarly found over 70 items that still needed to be addressed. This is because Microsoft’s functionality was primarily aimed at making sure I only had one space behind a dot, getting rid of all my contractions (“isn’t” instead of “isn’t ‘) And that I capitalized things correctly (although often did not realize that the capital letters were intentional).
Grammar is a whole different beast. He organizes his advice line by line, and generates a ton of advice. It’s not uncommon for the tool to flag things that need to be fixed in numbers that are easily 10x to 20x what the Microsoft tool wants me to deal with. It doesn’t do much automatically either; it will look for consistency in things like capitalization of a word and the cover will solve that problem; but for others, like punctuation, you have to go and review every incredibly tedious suggestion. This makes me not eager to finish anything, as I dread the grammar step, and it is tedious and very time consuming.
While it does not sub-segment like the Microsoft tool does, it aggressively attempts to eliminate passive sentences, hanging modifiers, sentences it finds too complicated, hard to read sentences, unclear background (which I use a lot) and tons of punctuation recommendations. He often goes into a loop where he recommends two things that don’t agree with each other. So when you fix one, it signals something else that when fixed returns the previous recommendation.
Much of what it recommends could be automated, so you don’t have to click through every row, and while it does make complex recommendations for changes you just need to click, more often than not it just tells you to correct the sentence without much advice on how to do it.
Use both together
When you use the new Microsoft editor for the first time, it cuts down on Grammarly’s recommendations by shortening the editing process, but even with both editors some things are still left out, mainly because no editor does indeed try to understand the sentences and both seem to be working on a limited training. The lack of useful tips makes the editing process seem to take longer than necessary. For example, the first sentence of this paragraph was labeled as “hard to read” by Grammarly, but I don’t think it is extremely hard to read; it’s just longer than I would like.
The new Microsoft editor is blazingly fast and far more complete than the old one, but it’s still not in the same league as Grammarly. However, grammar needs more automation so the editing process with the tool isn’t that tedious and maybe better overall tweaks so you don’t feel like you always try to write a doctoral thesis and have the advice more in line with that of the writer. style. The result seems to be much drier than I would like, but it is true that it has a lot less errors.
So, for now, I recommend using both tools in order, and we’ll see if either one can evolve into the only editor we can live with in the future.
Rob Enderle is director at Enderle Group. He is a nationally recognized analyst and longtime contributor to QuinStreet and Pund-IT publications.