Blogger beware: In which I almost fall for a dodgy thing

You know, I’ve always thought myself pretty internet savvy. I don’t even open those forwarded emails from my mother with half the over-60s in Devon CC’d in, just in case. Just recently, I’ve had emails coming in to this site from a few different places, offering sponsorship.

“$150 for a sponsored post!” they say, and it’s very tempting, if you’re trying to work out how to pay for food, bills and epic tattoos.

The last lot from “Discover Media” I ignored after Googling them revealed that they probably weren’t the gushingly awesome company they seem to be (check the comments on that blog post to see why).

I mean, if I wanted to write posts about gambling, I could make a bit of dough, but the whole thing felt very skeevy, so I stayed well away.

Then this email showed up from Grammarly. They wanted to sponsor me to write a post about writing. They’d give me a $20 Amazon voucher in return.

Hi Joely,

You know better than most that putting your writing “out there” takes a tremendous amount of courage; readers will find and comment on even the simplest mistakes. At Grammarly we know the feeling – and we’ve made it our mission to improve writers’ confidence. Putting our money where our mouth is, we’d be honored to sponsor your next blog post with a $20 Amazon gift card.

In case you haven’t heard of us, Grammarly is an automated online proofreader that finds and explains those pesky grammar, spelling, and punctuation mistakes that are bound to find their way into your first draft. Think of us as a second pair of digital eyes that can spare you the cost of hiring a proofreader. 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!

Please send me the expected publishing date and topic of your next appropriate blog post (ideally something about writing) so I can give you all the details you need in time.

Cheers,

(Name)

P.S. Let me know if you ever find yourself in foggy San Francisco; I’d love to grab some coffee. :)

So I Googled them. Like you do. I came up with their website. And here’s how I was fooled. They look legitimate. Legitimate to the point where they have a Facebook page, and I could see on their page a bunch of my writing friends had liked that page. To me, that gave them a spot of credibility.

I have to admit, I felt a little odd about it. Not for money reasons, but because contrary to what this guy in San Fran says, nothing compares to having another real live human being read your work. I’m the person who switches off grammar checkers because they are so tightly rules-oriented they don’t appreciate the nuances of language when it’s being used creatively.

Anyway, I thought maybe I could use an Amazon voucher, so I thought I could write a review about the service, and why I’m not sure about automated grammar checkers.

I wrote back. Foolish me even said I’d Googled them after receiving a lot of dodgy sponsorship offers. I’ve not had a reply yet. What bugged me, when I replied, was the email address I was sending back. Looked bot-like to me. *Concerned face*.

So I Googled again. And this time, I found this post.

The upshot is that if you want to write an honest post and obey the rules about full disclosure, you have to sign up for their service, give them money and then they give you a voucher.

Now, I’m not going to lie to readers and say “I checked this with Grammarly” when clearly I didn’t, and never would. I don’t want to use a service like this and I wouldn’t, in all honesty, recommend it. I should really have listened to the writer in me, rather than the bit of me thinking about replacing light bulbs via the medium of Amazon.

In all honesty, you shouldn’t expect an automated grammar checker to do the work of a proofreader. A human proofreader isn’t there to check your subject/objects and technicality of language. Grammarly could never tell you that your central protagonist is behaving inconsistently or that you have a continuity error in chapters 5 and 9. You need a person for that.

I feel strongly about what I write about and recommend, compensation or no. I can’t write favourable reviews for publishers of books that are truly terrible, and I can’t accept money for recommending a service to others I’d never use myself. So I don’t get an Amazon voucher, unfortunately. But they also don’t get my money.

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