Writing, publishing, geekdom, and errata.

Dear Grammarly: Your PR Relies on Scammy, Clueless, Spammy Practices. Stop Trying To Get Me To Help.

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(See updates at http://ideatrash.net/2013/12/dear-grammarly-your-pr-relies-on-scammy.html and http://ideatrash.net/2013/12/in-which-grammarlys-pr-continues-to-be.html)

NOTE:  The links for "spam" and "scam" and "sleazy" all point to the same place.  This is the same tactic I took with OmniBuzz Media.   Everything else is a real link.

Stay away from Grammarly's "blog sponsorships". They employ scammy SEO practices at best, and there are reports of their PR person asking bloggers to violate FTC regulations and failure to follow through with the promised rewards.

You might remember that back in June I said I got an e-mail from Nikolas Baron representing the online grammar-checking service Grammarly.   He wanted to give me a gift card as a blog sponsorship because I was nominated for some (apparently fake) award.  Not only did I pan his tactic (and suggested phrasing), but I also kinda suggested the service wasn't really worth the exorbitant price they were offering for it.

And then my girlfriend - who unlike me, does teach college English - unabashedly panned the service.
I would NOT recommend such a program for my students or my school for a bunch of reasons. First, I can't see the quality of the feedback provided. If I can't see an actual sample, I wouldn't ever endorse its use. Period.

Second, the program appears to give A LOT of commentary on work, as if quantity indicates quality. Students need help not only finding problems but also PRIORITIZING them. An omitted Oxford comma is a stylistic choice; pervasive run-on sentences are a much more pressing issue.

Third, this program should be used ONLY under the guidance of competent real-live writing teachers. But admini$trator$ will see $12 a month as a wonderfully cheap way to get a new "teacher"; they'll get what they pay for. And without guidance as to HOW to use the comments, students may think that a properly edited piece of writing is GOOD, that the correctness somehow proves their content is okay. However, editing isn't revision. If I could give students grades based solely on where they placed their commas, my job would be much simpler and grading much more efficient.

There's a body of research out there, and more being conducted all the time, about computer-assisted writing assessment on products such as Criterion and My Access, which purport to assess content as well as correctness. Do they work? Finding of most researchers indicate, in short, that they don't.

Now, I'm back to grading. And not only for the commas.
 A brief search indicates that Nikolas is continuing to spam (and even scam) people with really shady marketing tactics in order to get blogs to endorse Grammarly.  Check out this post (and roundup of other blogger's assessments) on Poisoned Rationality.  And read the comments - apparently good old Nick isn't really following through on his promises.

As I pointed out in my first post, I replied to Nick... largely because he has one of those "you can't repeat this because I typed some fancy words in my e-mail signature" things.  Luckily, I have one of those "You getting this e-mail releases me from all of those agreements in my e-mail signature" things, so I'm going to comment on his e-mail here.  

Unfortunately, I do not have a crochet penis to show for my review.  I do, however, have GIFs. 

Let's do this.

Hi Steven,

I just stumbled across your review of “The Power of Habit” (which is fantastic, by the way) and thought to myself, “What a perfect fit!” 
Really?  Because that review was two paragraphs.   My son wrote better book reports in grade school.
As a part of our Blogger Partnership Program, we’re currently looking to sponsor similar blog posts with an $50 Amazon gift card in exchange for a small text ad placement.
 Oh, look.  Nick's learned how to put tracking links in his e-mail.  (That's the thing where each person who gets an e-mail will be sent to the same page... but the person who sent the e-mail can match up who clicked the link because they know which link they sent you.   Sneakytimes.  You can find out more about this tactic here:  http://www.pardot.com/faqs/emails/link-tracking/)  No, Nick, you're going to learn that I looked at this e-mail when you see this post saying what a spammer you are, and how sleazy your marketing is. 

In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that finds and explains pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your writing. If you'd like to join our 3 million users and try the premium version of our proofreader for free, let me know and I'll make it happen!
You don't remember me, Nick?  Wow, not only do you act like a sleazy, spammy, scammer, but you apparently can't even keep a database straight.
Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate blog post (ideally something about books or writing) so I can give you the details you’ll need to participate.
Oh, Nick, I will definitely tell you ALL about this post.  I will tell EVERYONE about this post.  When I see people share something from your page on Facebook, I will tell them about how sleazy and scammy your tactics are, Nikolas.
P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. :)

If I had the money to do it, I would love to have every blogger you'd e-mailed show up at your (foggy-ass) doorstep.   By the way, for those of you playing the home game, googling his e-mail signoff implies there'd be a LOT of us for him to buy coffee for.

So let us sum up:  I thought the service was (at best) overpriced.  A college-level English instructor thought it was worse than useless for students, and points out that studies back out her opinion.   And the service consistently - and unapologetically - uses a scammy, spammy asshat to try to get fake recommendations.

 So am I going to use Grammarly?  Well, let's look at one of the testimonials on their webpage:

So the Oxford comma wasn't caught, nor was the lack of a pronoun in any of the sentences.  And this is one of their testimonials.  

So will I use Grammarly?  NO.  And no matter how good their service is, the sleazy spammy marketing is a good reason to try some of the alternatives instead.

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