How was Grammarly Developed?

When we want to communicate a message, it’s important to remember that communication is more than just language.


Communicating your message can often be more complex than it sounds, especially when it’s in the written form and not expressed verbally. Grammatical, punctuation, and spelling errors can cause silly or even hurtful misunderstandings, especially when you’re about to do business with your partners or clients.


In addition, setting an appropriate tone and sticking to it can be challenging and it’s only natural – we are all humans.


Luckily, our flaws and inconsistencies can be easily corrected by Grammarly and the machine learning behind it. The delicate art of efficient communication is now made easier. The wide recognition of Grammarly is not really surprising due to its spectacular achievements, but how did it all start? How was Grammarly developed and what’s really powering it?


These questions are about to be answered and you’re curiosity fulfilled.


What is Grammarly?

Grammarly is one of the best-known and most appreciated writing assisting tools, which is confirmed by more than 10 million active users. Moreover, Grammarly comes in many shapes and forms. It can be a browser extension, desktop app, Microsoft Office add-in, keyboard or your phone and iPad, or just an online tool. Basically, all you need to do is just take your pick.


How was Grammarly developed?
Source: martech.zone


Grammarly is strengthened and run by Artificial Intelligence (AI) as a writing assistant, which makes everything it does, well, intelligent. Thanks to the intelligence supporting the tool, its users can spot and correct grammatical, spelling, and punctuation mistakes.


These capabilities, however, are only the tip of the iceberg and Grammarly can offer even more advanced features like plagiarism checker, writing tone and structure suggestions, as well as personalized feedback with explanations.


Grammarly is indeed a revolutionary tool and it was identified as such by Fast Company, which titled Grammarly as one of the world’s most innovative AI companies.


In short, Grammarly creates the value of saving time, engaging, coherent, and correct writing, as well as tone consistency. In addition, the personalized feedback can even teach anyone a thing or two about compelling and effective error-free writing.


So, how does Grammarly know so much about language and communication?


One would think that it was created by an army of experienced and all-knowing linguists, but it wasn’t quite like that. In fact, the 3 key people who were – and still are – behind Grammarly’s development are not even native English speakers.


The Three Language Musketeers from Ukraine

Naturally, linguists were involved in the process of creating Grammarly, but the key people have always been Alex Shevchenko, Max Lytvyn, and Dmytro Lider. Having started in Kyiv, Ukraine, together, the 3 men developed Grammarly by studying written content and research databases.


As you now know, Grammarly turns out to be an essential assistant for many, and although its headquarters are now based in San Francisco, California, back in 2019 the company even became the very first “Unicorn” of Ukraine.


Perhaps one of the most interesting parts of Grammarly’s development is that its creators are not native English native speakers nor educated linguists.

Alex Shevchenko, Max Lytvyn, and Dmytro Lider are the co-founders of Grammarly.
Source: grammarly.com

Despite the odds, however, the developers have identified the need for a tool like Grammarly and developed it. Now millions of people create engaging and error-free written content. Even better, multilingual users can easily sound fluent without overthinking the content itself.


Mydropbox – Grammarly’s Predecessor

Did you know that Grammarly wasn’t the first attempt at creating a tool with a plagiarism checker?


That’s right, Grammarly’s co-founders started designing a plagiarism checker already back in the late 90s. The complete software was released in 2002 and in the time period of 5 years, it has achieved remarkable results.


More specifically, Mydropbox was used by 800 universities, which more or less equals 2 million students. The success of the tool was undeniable, however, despite its potential, there was only so much it could do.


Mydropbox is the predecessor of Grammarly and it's an important part of how was Grammarly developed.
Source: producthabits.com


In other words, Mydropbox was ultimately only capable of being a plagiarism checker without the language and communication features. Moreover, the only focus was universities and their students.


The founders of Mydropbox eventually realized that the tool shouldn’t be limited to academic use only. That was when Mydropbox was sold and a new product called Grammarly created. As you now know, Grammarly does include the plagiarism checker but is not limited to it.


Now the software is a personal editor for millions of users, successfully guiding them to efficient language use and communication.


It’s only natural that broader capabilities allowed Grammarly to create new customer segments. However, the original one, which belongs to students, was never forgotten and it was even the starting point of Grammarly.


The rest is history now, so let’s take a look at the technical part of Grammarly. It’s finally time to answer the question of this article: “How was Grammarly developed?”.

Technology Behind Grammarly and How Was Grammarly Developed

Common Lisp (CL)

Let’s start with the backend grammar engine, shall we?


As you can see, Grammarly uses Common Lisp, and it’s important to know that Common Lisp is not a separate programming language on it’s own. As a matter of fact, it is only a dialect of the programming language we know as Lisp and it’s not the only one in the Lisp dialect family.


However, Common Lisp specifically is known and recognized for its:

  • Flexibility
  • Fast prototyping capabilities
  • Powerful macro system


The very purpose of Common Lisp is to improve another Lisp dialect – Macslip. While Macslip was lacking in unity, standardization, and more length of its features, Common Lisp was intended to be used as a specification that would correct these flaws. And it did.


Now Common Lisp is identified as a multi-paradigm programming language that supports a perfect combination and optimization of functional, procedural, and object-oriented programming. Moreover, the dialect supports optional type annotation and casting and permits more efficient arithmetic than on big integers or arbitrary precision types.


Machine Learning

Machine Learning is exactly what it sounds like – it’s basically computers that are capable of learning without additional programming efforts. This essentially means that Grammarly’s algorithms can read and interpret statistics.


As a result, certain patterns in the data are noticed, which allows the algorithms to interpret and even predict the changes. It’s also worth mentioning that machine learning can be supervised and unsupervised learning.


In Grammarly’s case, it essentially means that when it is tasked to work with huge loads of data related to grammar, punctuation, spelling, or going through published work, the tool can compile crucial information for its users. It’s done by going through written content and research databases. By going through this data, Grammarly teaches itself about everything we need to know.


Deep Learning

Like the previously mentioned Machine Learning, Deep Learning is something that Grammarly uses daily. Something else that Machine Learning and Deep Learning have in common is that both can be supervised and unsupervised. However, Deep Learning is a little bit more complex and delicate than Machine Learning, hence the word “Deep”.


In short, one could say that Deep Learning is like Machine Learning with empathy. Deep Learning is designed to analyze data with a logical structure that a human typically uses to draw conclusions.


To do this, Deep Learning applications even use a layered structure of algorithms in short called ANN (Artificial Neural Network). Can you guess what inspired ANN to be designed this way? It was none other than the human brain.


Unsurprisingly, Deep Learning really works. After all, it is designed for humans, so it only makes sense if it thinks like one but faster and more accurately.


Finally, the best thing yet is the fact that it takes very little human management to achieve the best results it can.



Grammarly’s timeline and introduction to its progress

Now that you have a deeper understanding of Grammarly and the technology behind it, how about we try out time travel?


Naturally, we don’t mean literal time travel, but rather a time-lapse of Grammarly’s progression. More specifically, we are about to start by introducing the very first feature that Grammarly introduced – Grammarly Editor. One by one, we’ll move on in time to show you how and when Grammarly began to release its other features, as well as other remarkable developments.


Now, hang on, sit tight, and prepare to reminiscence because we’re about to enter 2010 – one year of Grammarly’s existence!


The timeline behind how was Grammarly developed and improved.
Source: grammarly.com


Grammarly Editor’s Introduction in 2010

Back in 2010, 11 years from now and one year after its establishment, Grammarly launched the Grammarly Editor.


Back then Grammarly wasn’t available on a phone’s keyboard or as a Microsoft Word add-in. Forget all that and just imagine that Grammarly Editor was the only product at the time. Not even a browser extension existed and it continued to be this way until 2013, but more on that later.


While back then Grammarly wasn’t as flexible and convenient as it is today, its editor was, and still is the main product offering. The other features and strategies came later to make it more attractive.


Moreover, as Grammarly’s co-founders already had established strong and long-lasting relationships with educational institutions and students, their eyes in 2010 were still set on them. Which, for a new product, makes sense, as the brand does need to build up the trust to expand. The strategy proved to be smart and in 2010 Grammarly already had 150,000 students as registered users.


This is how Grammarly Editor looks now:

Grammarly Editor - the new version in "How was Grammarly Developed?".
Source: grammarly.com


And this is how Grammarly Editor looked back in 2010:

Grammarly Editor in 2010, soon after its development.
Source: web.archive.org



Microsoft Office add-in Introduced in 2013

Remember how we mentioned that until 2013 Grammarly only had its editor to offer without any flexibility options? No browser extension, no phone keyboard, no Microsoft Office add-in… Ooops, the Microsoft Office add-in should be taken out of this list now!


We’re in 2013 now and this was the year when Grammarly took the first step to pleasing the market through convenient use of Grammarly. This essentially also meant that Grammarly’s users were able to use the grammar and plagiarism checker in Word and Outlook. After all, these are the platforms where many students and professionals compile academic work and engaging emails.


Microsoft Office add-in was the second introduced feature in "How was Grammarly developed?".
Source: grammarly.com


Browser extensions and Freemium model in 2015

Things got really interesting for us users in 2015. It’s been 2 years since Grammarly launched the Microsoft Office add-in, which evidently was a smart move. However, Grammarly is the type of tool that creates a lot of space for even more improvement and it didn’t take long for the people behind to do just that.


As a matter of fact, Grammarly made all the right and revolutionary decisions that year. Not only did it launch browser extensions but it also expanded its reach through the Freemium Model.


It goes without saying that browser extensions alone made plenty of activities easier. Writing a post on social media, texting your friends online, and sending emails to customers became much easier. The Grammarly browser extension is there for you wherever you need it.


The Freemium Model made everything even better and even now it still brings in more attention and appreciation directed towards the tool.


Finally, another note-worthy Grammarly’s accomplishment in 2015 was an active and large user base. As you know, back in 2010 Grammarly had 150,000 active users, who were mostly students. It took 5 years and Grammarly already reached 1,000,000 daily users from all backgrounds. Everything was clearly indicating that the company was on the right track.


Grammarly browser extension is most of the most popular choice.
Source: grammarly.com


Desktop App Introduced in 2016

It appears that Grammarly’s success didn’t stop the company from further developments, hence Desktop App was introduced in 2016. The desktop app works more or less like Grammarly Editor, except you can reach it straight from your desktop rather than through your browser.


Mobile Keyboards Introduced in 2017

Mobile use and popularity have been increasing for years now and even though 2017 may seem like a long time ago, it was no different back then. It’s quite obvious that Grammarly knew the trends and didn’t wish to stay behind, which is why the company introduced Mobile Keyboards.


Now Grammarly can stay with you on your phone’s browser, apps, and everything else that involves your keyboard.

Grammarly can be used on a phone's keyboard to stay consisted in effective communication.
Source: grammarly.com


Grammarly Business Introduced in 2018

Welcome to 2018 – the year of further expansion.


More specifically, it was the year when Grammarly established a more business-friendly approach by introducing the Grammarly Business package. This, of course, does not mean that students, bloggers, and others were forgotten, as Grammarly Freemium and Grammarly Premium were still there. It was simply time to create a more specialized product for businesses.


Some of the features in Grammarly Business include a style guide to set a desired company’s tone with all team members being reminded to stick to it. In addition, Grammarly Business added an admin panel, team usage statistics, and other relevant benefits.


In the same year, improvements had been done regarding Grammarly’s browser extension. The very first version of browser extensions was not functional in Google Docs, which is often another important platform for many Grammarly users.


Thankfully, Grammarly has identified the need for improvement and in 2018 launched the browser extensions’ beta version making it fully compatible with Google Docs.


Grammarly Business was introduced in 2018 to personalize the service for businesses.
Source: grammarly.com


Measuring even more success in 2019

While it’s true that ever since its creation Grammarly has been rising and achieving positive results, the year 2019 was the year when the recognition was the most significant.


More specifically, there were two recognitions that highlighted 2019 for Grammarly – 20,000,000 active daily users and Grammarly becoming the first “Unicorn” from Ukraine.


Something worth emphasizing is that in just 4 years Grammarly expanded from 1,000,000 to 20,000,000 active daily users. If this doesn’t reflect success, we don’t know what does!


Furthermore, Grammarly did receive monetary profit from it and it wasn’t like it gained all or the majority of its users through Grammarly Freemium. In fact, in order to be titled the “Unicorn”, a company needs to raise $1 billion in funding, which Grammarly did.


More users and Grammarly for iPad

We almost caught up to the present day and our time travel is coming to an end. Currently, we’re in the year 2020!


The first highlight of the year is a once again increased number of daily active users. This time, it only took a year to progress from 20,000,000 to 30,000,000 active daily users. Perhaps it was at least partly due to the fact that many businesses took their business online? We can only guess.


Furthermore, 2020 was the year when Grammarly became available on iPad. For now, the iPad is the only tablet that can grant you access to Grammarly, but we do expect more opportunities in the near future.


Grammarly for iPad is currently the newest feature.
Source: grammarly.com


Finally, although 2021 is not over yet, progress has been made and announced by Grammarly. This time, Grammarly confirmed that there are 30,000 teams using Grammarly Business, which indicated the promised successful communication in the business environment.


What’s next for Grammarly?

Just like us, you might be wondering what the next step for Grammarly is and where it’s going from here. Truth to be told, no one really knows. Unless you work at Grammarly and get involved with planning its next steps.


However, what we do know is that Grammarly is far from being done with further improvements. As the latest improvement from the company was making Grammarly available on iPad, it’s only natural to expect that it’s only a matter of time until it appears elsewhere too.


In addition to that, knowing Grammarly, it would be unheard of if it was being developed even more for an even more intuitive user experience.


Final words and summary

As you now know, developing Grammarly was much more than just coming up with a product. It all started with Mydropbox – a plagiarism checker, which had only students as the customer segment. The tool was successful but limited despite its incredible potential.



Luckily, the co-founders established strong connections with the educational institutions and transitioned them into users of the new tool – Grammarly. While Grammarly did and still does have the plagiarism checker, it’s capable of much more. The tool is a powerful assistant that makes sure that your message is mistake-free, coherent, engaging, and understood by the recipients.


Furthermore, Machine Learning and Deep Learning ensure accuracy, constant improvement, and even compassion for you – the user, as well as whoever you write to.


Finally, if there’s anything we can learn from the timeline of Grammarly, it’s that a fantastic tool is only half the work. In order to succeed, a business needs to be where its customers are and provide them with solutions that will eliminate their pains.


As you now know, that’s exactly what Grammarly did by making the tool compatible with various devices and personalizing the service for its different segments. We look forward to following the next steps that Grammarly takes and hope that you enjoyed traveling in time with us.


If you or anyone you know need assistance with web development and/or design, you know where to find us! Our helpful Wiredelta team is here for you every step of the way.


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