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Writer in the Shadows

March 22, 2012 Leave a comment

By Aaron Guzman


We’ve all had that moment: you find yourself in a classroom or the workplace when an associate makes a comment that reveals that they know absolutely nothing about the topic at hand. You and the rest of the class lean over to take a good look, all the while thinking “How did this person even get in here?”

The World of Professional Writing Has its Dark Side

The answer might surprise you.

Out there, beyond the pristine doors of the University, lurks a man who can impersonate anyone, and in doing so, can help anyone get ahead—for a price. Ed Dante, a pseudonym given to the Chronicle of Higher Education for an interview, writes academic papers for students all over the country. In 2010, he produced roughly 5,000 pages of scholarly writing—all of it for other people.

Dante has produced work in numerous fields for students at all levels, including writing dissertations and theses. He has become so successful that he created his own company, complete with a staff of 50 writers.

And business is booming.

There are three primary markets for Dante: the student who speaks English as a second language, “the hopelessly deficient kid,” and of course, “the lazy rich kid.” The author contends that colleges are failing students, especially the ESL student and those struggling to keep up. In our education system, the prevailing philosophy seems to be a “focus on evaluation rather than education.” Combine this notion with the challenges of mastering a new language and the hefty truncheon of grading looming overhead and you have the perfect components for desperation. The numbers seem to suggest that enough pressure and desperation can surely push a student to cheat in order to cover the possible loss of thousands of dollars in college investment.

This type of business also poses unique problems for teachers and educators. How do you ensure that the work of your students is actually their own? There is no quick and simple way to check, like the convenience of Copyscape. Many instructors don’t even grade their papers, instead delegating that responsibility to a teacher’s assistant or graduate student. Anyone with enough money can purchase papers for an entire semester, leaving the grader none the wiser.

While Dante’s work raises significant ethical concerns, there are certainly aspects of his profession that we can learn from. In order to be a superior editor or on-call general-interest writer, you need to be well rounded—not just in your writing capabilities and style, but also in your research techniques and the assimilation and dissemination of information you’ll need to interact with. And let’s not forget, writing is hard work. If you are going to be writing on someone else’s dollar, be prepared for long, odd hours, sleepless nights, and tight deadlines.

If it’s any consolation for concerned parties, Ed Dante has announced that he is retiring. But even though the lone gunslinger may be hanging up his spurs, his company is still around. Not to mention all of the new competition a ripe market has generated.

The world of academic writing is changing. It seems there will be writers in the shadows for a long time to come.



Read the Full Article

Discussion Questions:

  • In the world of professional writing, where do you ethically place Ed Dante? Should this form of writing be considered a legitimate field of work?
  • How does this form of academic fraud make us reflect upon the field of ghost writing? Are they fundamentally the same? How are they different? Are there similar ethical conflicts in both areas of writing?
  • What strategies can be developed and implemented to counter this type of academic writing fraud?
  • What do Ed Dante’s writing/production techniques reveal about the fundamental flaws or weaknesses inherent in academic writing?



Source: Dante, Ed. The Shadow Scholar. The Chronicle of Higher Education. 12 November 2010.

Image Source: Dzz