Fifty Shades of Thesaurus Bashing

Confession: I have not yet read any of E.L. James’ “Fifty Shades” books or her fan fiction series, “Master of the Universe.” There are several reasons for this, not the least of which is a lack of time on my part. I’ve heard from a few sources that it’s poorly written, though blockbuster sales and others’ rave reviews might (or might not) argue to the contrary. As a fan fiction writer (though not a Twilight one), the idea that this published story is a result of nothing more than using the “find & replace” function to change characters’ names makes me pretty nervous [find this very interesting study at]. The biggest reservation I have is that I’ve heard the story portrays a normal expression of adult sexuality (BDSM) into a “problem” that only true love or innocence can fix.

But I take issue with’s recent critique of the work, “50 Worst Synonyms in 50 Shades of Grey.” The snarky post doesn’t accuse James of clumsy prose, misusing words, or even grammar mistakes, merely an excess of “fancy” word choices. Then it goes further to suggest “fixes.” For instance, where James uses “taciturn” to describe a character – a lovely, precise, and evocative word in my opinion – the blog recommends “a quiet guy” would be an improvement.


I personally like to read flowery descriptions. I prefer to be stimulated, even challenged by an author’s word choices. Schools spend years teaching kids to employ more descriptive words in their writing, and reading is one of the best ways to expand the intellect with ideas as well as vocabulary. Why fault a writer for doing exactly that?

If anything,’s criticism only encourages me to read James’ stuff. And for that, I hope she’s laughing all the way to the bank.