Jane Austen is known as a “perfect stylist,” but those perfectly crafted sentences may not actually be hers. After studying 1,100 pages of Austen’s handwritten, unpublished manuscripts, an Oxford professor concluded that “the polished punctuation and epigrammatic style … is simply not there,” she tells the BBC. In its place is a more free-flowing, somewhat untidy style, featuring limited punctuation.
The professor believes William Gifford, an editor who worked for Austen’s publisher, was “heavily involved” in creating the Austen that we know today. Even so, the research gave her “a more intimate appreciation” of Austen, the professor says, as the original drafts “reveal Austen to be an experimental and innovative writer, constantly trying new things,” and show that she was “even better at writing dialogue and conversation than the edited style of her published novels suggest.” Want more Austen? Click here to watch the Jane Austen Fight Club.