"Think Different" or "Think Differently"

Remember Apple's old advertising slogan "think different"? Grammar sticklers complained, but it wasn't completely wrong! Learning why can help you understand adverbs.

Bonnie Mills, Writing for
5-minute read
Episode #243

The 'Think Different' Commercial

If you look at the transcript of the Apple commercial (4) or watch it on YouTube (5), you’ll discover that the ad focuses on rebels, misfits, and troublemakers, and it uses the line “They’re not fond of rules and they have no respect for the status quo.” Apple seems to view itself as a rebel, too. After all, seemingly stuffy IBM and Microsoft have been Apple’s competition for decades.

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Apple’s ad also says, “Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” But can a commercial change how the public perceives traditional grammar? It appears logical to assume that Apple knowingly used a statement that listeners might construe as ungrammatical but that the company didn’t mind, because it is rebelling against the status quo. Further evidence in favor of this view is that although the slogan is “Think different,” Apple’s commercial does use the line “The ones who see things differently.” If Apple believed that “think different” and “think differently” were interchangeable, the ad might have stated, “The ones who see things different.” This phrasing might have been too different, so in that case Apple stuck with traditional grammar.

Steve Jobs seems to like the questionable-grammar approach, since he also pushed the envelope in 2008 by calling a new iPod the “funnest iPod ever,” which made some people ask, “Is funnest a word?

Is 'Think Different' Wrong?

In conclusion, most grammarians would not recommend using iffy grammar in written essays and formal documents, but advertising is anything but formal. What do you think of Apple’s slogan? Leave a comment. And do you think perhaps that the public will soon start complaining about Waste Management's “Think Green” campaign? Is it OK to sacrifice traditional grammar for the good of the environment?

The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier & Grammar Girl

This article was written by Bonnie Trenga, author of The Curious Case of the Misplaced Modifier, who blogs at sentencesleuth.blogspot.com, and read in the podcast by Mignon Fogarty, author of the New York Times best-seller, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.

  1. Garner, B. 2009. Garner's Modern American Usage, 3rd Edition, pp. 19-20. New York: Oxford University Press.
  2. “Different.” American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 4th Edition, p. 505. 2006. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company.
  3. Cult of Mac. “Interview: The Man Who Named the iMac and Wrote Think Different.” www.cultofmac.com/20172/20172.
  4. Mike Geyer’s Blog. www.edork.com/Words/ThinkDifferent.asp.
  5. YouTube. “Think Different” commercial. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4oAB83Z1ydE.


About the Author

Bonnie Mills, Writing for Grammar Girl

Bonnie Mills has been a copyeditor since 1996.