For better or worse, Fifty Shades of Grey is a worldwide phenomenon. As the long-awaited (and much maligned) movie adaptation hits the big screen, we wanted to revisit the most shocking, depraved element of E.L. James's erotic trilogy.
No, not the bondage -- we're talking about the writing.
Here are five of the books' worst sins against grammar and good writing:
Colloquialisms. The story of Fifty Shades takes place in the Pacific Northwest. However, James is British, and her native tongue occasionally creeps into her writing with words like "pram" ("stroller" in American English) or "ring her" ("call her" in American English). As this post from Vulture points out, "In some cases, James's word choices may have to do with the fact that she's British. But her protagonist, Anastasia -- and Ana's insufferable subconscious and inner goddess -- are not."
Repetition and Wordiness. It's not the size of your vocabulary but how well you use it that counts. No, wait, size does matter when it comes to finding the right word for the job. As Emma Dibdin observed for Digital Spy, James's philosophy seems to be, "When in doubt, add more adjectives." The less said about Ana's "inner goddess," who constantly performs unlikely dance moves, the better.
Abused Punctuation. James never met an ellipsis she didn't like. Ana's narration is peppered with ellipses (the "..." that signals trailing off or elided words in a formal quote), but while overused, it's not an actual mistake. Her frequent comma splices, on the other hand, find innocent clauses incorrectly bound together with flimsy commas, as in the sentence, "My heartbeat picks up again, this feels so... so good."
Just Plain Wrong. Grammarian Jenny Baranick created a quick quiz based on errors she found in Fifty Shades of Grey. These are basic mistakes that really should have been caught during the editing and proofreading stages, like "its a very simple equation." Christian Grey isn't just a damaged billionaire with a penchant for whips and chains; he's also in desperate need of an apostrophe.
And... Copyright Infringement? Fifty Shades began life online as Twilight fan fiction. The original title was Master of the Universe, written under the bizarre pseudonym "Snowqueens Icedragon," and it featured a BDSM relationship between Bella and Edward. The story gained legions of followers and eventually James "rewrote" it by changing the names so it could be published without infringing Stephenie Meyer's copyright. Almost all traces of the original fan fiction have disappeared from the internet, according to AdWeek, and though James' publishers have claimed that Fifty Shades of Grey is a unique work of fiction distinct from Master of the Universe, plagiarism checking software found an 89 percent match between the two texts.
So is James really the worst writer ever? Not exactly. We found similar errors in the work of everyone from Nicholas Sparks to Edith Wharton. When it comes to grammar goofs, no writer is immune. Check out our handy infographic and then let us know: does a compulsively readable story make up for bad writing?