Draft: Tool of Empowerment: Online Grammar Checkers


For Next Week:

Revise Literature Review. Add the Educational Equity.

Finish the first section, then revise the autoethnography.

“Do you have a Grammarly Premium account, Ms. Pham?”

10-15 pages; 2500-4000

“No, I do not, David. Isn’t there a free version of it? I asked. I wasn’t too familiar with Grammarly, and like many of my colleagues, I generally have my students use a Self and Peer Revision Checklist to help them revise their writing, or I will help them revise and edit their writing during writing conferences. I haven’t used Grammarly and wasn’t too aware of its functionality.

“Ms. Pham, the basic version only offers a couple of suggestions,” David explained to me.

David was a student in my 10th grade English class. He was not an honors nor a college-prep student; rather, he was a regular, non- student who was very interested in clear writing. I found his ambition intriguing, so that night I signed up for a free account of Grammarly and copied and pasted some of my past writing into the program. The algorithm was given a couple of editing suggestions and the other suggestions were blocked. I checked to see if the editing suggestions were accurate, and they were; so I took a leap of faith and purchased an individual subscription to Grammarly Premium ($139.95/year). I checked to see if the other writing suggestions were accurate, and they were. The following morning, I excitedly told David that I had purchased an individual subscription to Grammarly Premium. He smiled and asked to use it to check his essay.

In retrospect, I could have just revised and edited his essay for him, but he didn’t want me to revise his essay. Rather, David wanted to see the other writing suggestions that the paid version of Grammarly offered. He wanted to revise and edit his writing independently. After ten minutes of checking his essay with Grammarly, I conferenced with David and read his essay. I was pleased that Daniel’s writing clearer and that his error count was reduced to single digits. I asked David want he liked about the program, and he told me that the program had offered him suggestions that he could accept or reject.

David fell so in love with my Grammarly Premium that he had asked to use it for his Social Studies essays during his lunch periods to the point that it became too time-consuming for me to meet with him on every writing assignment in every academic subject. Finally, I asked David if his other teachers had an account, and he told me no. Then, I asked if his parents could purchase it for him since he used it so frequently. He told me that his mother did not want to purchase it for him.

I looked at David, and I saw myself. When I was growing up, my parents who just came to the United States from Saigon, Vietnam, were on food stamps (at that time, there were colorful coupons). Dad worked cleaning nursing homes; Mom worked in a Chinese restaurant. They did not have an extra $100 bucks to spend on an educational tool. That $ 100 dollar could have been used for groceries, gas, bills. This is the grim face of educational inequity. Some students are given every educational tool, but choose not to use them; while other students do not have access to the same tools but want to use them. That is the paradox. Skeptics may ask: Why should you care so much; it was merely access to an online grammar checker. What is the big deal?

My research study was launched with this request from one of my students in my 10th grade English class in a large suburban New Jersey high school. We were writing a synthesis essay on The Crucible by Arthur Miller along with other current events articles, and he wanted to edit his essay. I allowed my 10th-grade students in my college prep and regular track English classes to use my personal Grammarly Premium account to revise and edit their essays. The opportunity to use Grammarly motivated some students to finish their essays so they can use it on the teacher desktop in front of the room. 

Overall, my students found Grammarly Premium more helpful than the free, basic version. I would have a student on my desktop computer while conferencing with another student writer. After their Grammarly session, I would ask, “What errors were you making? Did you notice a pattern?” I have a conversation on passive versus active voice, explaining that active voice is more rigorous, however, passive voice is preferred for lab reports. I also refer them to Purdue OWL for further reading on active versus passive voice (See Purdue OWL’s lesson on Active versus Passive Voice.) Based on my experience, it is crucial to have this conversation with the students after checking their essays on Grammarly so they are mindful of their grammatical errors. These conversations also serve as individualized grammar lessons. 

First Draft of Abstract and Outline of my Research Article

(Source: Google Image, 2021)


High school English teacher Linda Pham contends that online grammars such as Grammarly Premium are tools of empowerment for students who lack linguistic capital. By having access to free online grammar checkers, disenfranchised students are able to check their writing for grammar, punctuation, and spelling errors.


I. Anecdote of a former student of mine. In 2018, David* (His name has been changed to protect his privacy) asked if I had a Grammarly Premium account. I did not have a paid Grammarly account since I usually have my students revise and edit their writing using a Revising and Editing Checklist. Some students use the Spelling and Grammar Checker on Google Docs.

II. Critics of online grammar. English teachers did not grow up using online grammar checkers. We were taught to use dictionaries and thesauruses along with grammar workbooks. However, online dictionaries such as Merriam-Webster are more convenient; so why not online grammar checkers?

III. My Autoethnographic Story on Educational Equity

IV. Case Studies on various online grammar checkers

V. Recommendations

VI. Works Cited

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