Bill Gates loses to surprise celebrity in Twitter grammar stakes

The Grammarly app examined famous people's tweets for National Grammar Day, and the Microsoft co-founder came in second. You'll never guess to whom. You'll also never imagine who's last.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.

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Bill Gates probably isn't too upset.

Bloomberg/YouTube screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

I fancy Harvard will be shutting down classes for the day to celebrate.

Three of its more famous alumni have achieved something extraordinary, something of which their alma mater could have only dreamed.

You see, National Grammar Day is nearly upon us. This monumental March 4 date might have slipped your mind.

It didn't slip the minds of the devious PR and data people at Grammarly. This is an app that claims it will turn your words into, well, English. Or, at least, Grammarly's sort of English.

Grammarly delved into the 150 most recent tweets from a the top 50 most-followed celebrities on Twitter. They excluded retweets to ensure that the words they examined were the famous person's own.

They then rolled those tweets through Grammarly's app. After that, they gave the results to human proofreaders just to double-check.

And there in second place was Bill Gates, who, truth be told, dropped out of Harvard to co-found Microsoft. Who, though, could have beaten out this world-renowned smarty-pants?

Of course it was someone else who went to Harvard, someone who's created many vital new things and inspired millions. This person actually graduated -- magna cum laude in fact.

This person is Conan O'Brien.

The great comedian, now in semi-retirement on cable, is the man to whom grammar is apparently second nature, even on Twitter.

In third place was a Harvard Law graduate, President Barack Obama.

You, though, will be wondering who the grammar dunces were. Many of them are musicians of one kind or another. In the basement lurk Niall Horan, Miley Cyrus, Bruno Mars, Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne and Ariana Grande.

Some might conclude from this list that One Direction really does mean just one single direction.

At the very bottom was comedian and talk show host Daniel Tosh. As if he's going to care.

Grammarly says it "counted only black-and-white mistakes, such as misspellings, wrong and missing punctuation, misused or missing words, and subject-verb disagreement. We ignored stylistic variations, such as intentional misspellings, acronyms, common slang, hashtag mistakes, foreign language, missing terminal punctuation, '&' instead of 'and,' ellipses, and sentence fragments."

It's all very well to have Grammarly pulling out its smarts here. And there will be some amusement that the age group for the celebrities that make the most mistakes is 20-29. They make more than twice as many grammatical errors as the 30-39 age group.

But hasn't the Web changed writing? Is half the world just blurting via emoji?

"Although we have yet to crack the cryptic grammar of emojis, Grammarly incorporates feedback from millions of users that keeps us up-to-date on how people communicate today," a Grammarly spokesman insisted.

He added: "The need for clear and effective communication with peers, teachers, or co-workers is not going the way of the dodo bird. In fact, I would argue that the need is more urgent than ever, as English is quickly becoming the language of business and the preferred second language of much of the world."

Still, when it comes to Twitter grammar, we have a comedian at the top and a comedian at the bottom.

There's something funny about that.

Correction 6:42 a.m. PT: This story originally gave an incorrect date for National Grammar Day. The correct date is March 4.


The winners.


The basement.