Fifty Shades of Grey is notorious for several reasons, including evidently tortured prose. I haven’t read it (really, I haven’t), so I can only judge by what others tell me. But one area in which this book evidently did not fail was its proofreading.
I just finished reading Steven Pinker’s new book, The Sense of Style: The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century, and here’s the crux of what I want to tell you about it: Go buy this book!
Subject-verb agreement is a notoriously tricky problem. As Geoffrey Pullum, a professor of linguistics at the University of Edinburgh, pointed out in a Lingua Franca blog post, it’s easy to say that verbs should agree with their subjects, but it’s a lot harder to draw up a foolproof list of rules that one can follow to ensure grammatical agreement. There are simply too many gray areas and exceptions to the rules.