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One Freshman English for Graduate Students A Memoir and Two Theories I have taught a seminar on writing for graduate students several times. This requires a certain amount of "chutzpah." After all, to teach a topic suggests that you know something about it. Writing professionally, as a sociologist, for almost thirty years, gave me some claim to that knowledge. In addition, several teachers and colleagues had not only criticized my prose, but had given me innumerable lessons :meant to improve it. On the other hand, everyone knows that sociologists write very badly, so that literary types can make jokes about bad writing just by saying "sociology," the way vaudeville comedians used to get a laugh just by saying "Peoria" or "Cucamonga." (See, for instance, Cowley's 1956 attack and Merton's 1972 reply.) The experi­ ence and lessons haven't saved me from the faults I still share with my colleagues. Nevertheless, I took the chance, driven to it by stories of the chronic problems students and fellow 1Freshman English for Graduate Students 2 sociologists had with writing. I listed the course. The turnout for the first class surprised me. Not only did ten or twelve graduate students sign up, the class also contained a couple of post-Ph.D. researchers and even a few of my younger faculty colleagues, and that pattern of enrollment continued in succeeding years. Their worries and troubles with writing overshadowed the fear of embarrassing themselves by going back to school. My "chutzpah" went beyond teaching a course whose subject I was no master of. I didn't even prepare for the class, because (being a sociologist, not a teacher of composition) I had no idea how to teach it. So I walked in the first day not knowing what I would do. After a few fumbling preliminary remarks, I had a flash. I had been reading the Paris Review Interviews with Writers for years and had always had a slightly prurient interest in what the interviewed authors shamelessly revealed about their writing habits. So I turned to a former graduate student and old friend sitting on my left and said, "Louise, how do you write?" I explained that I was not interested in any fancy talk about scholarly preparations but, rather, in the nitty-gritty details, whether she typed or wrote in longhand, used any special kind of paper or worked at any special time of day. I didn't know what she would say. The hunch paid off. She gave, more or less unself­ consciously, a lengthy account of an elaborate routine which had to be done just so. Although she was not embarrassed by what she described, others squirmed a little as she explained that she could only write on yellow, ruled, legal-size pads using a green felt-tip pen, that she had to clean the house first (that turned out to be a common preliminary for women but not for men, who were more likely to sharpen twenty pencils), that she could only write between such and such hours, and so on. I knew I was on to something and went on to the next victim. A little more reluctantly, he described hisFreshman English for Graduate Stuclents 3 equally peculiar habits. The third one said he was sorry but he'd like to pass his turn. I didrl't allow that. He had a good reason, as it turned out. They all did. By then they could see that what people 'vvere describing was something quite shameful, nothing you wanted to talk about in front of twenty other people. I was relentless, making everyone tell all and not sparing myself. This exercise created great tension, but also a lot of joking, enormous interest, and eventually a surprising relaxation. I pointed out that they all were relieved, and ought to be, because, while their worst fears were true-they really were crazy-they were no crazier than anyone else. It was a comnlon disease. Just as people feel relieved to discover tilat some frightening physical symptoms they've been hiding are just some­ thing that is "going around," kno'tVing that others had crazy writing habits should have been, and clearly was, a good thing. I went on with my interpretatioIl. From one point of view, my fellow participants were describing neu­ rotic symptoms. Viewed sociologically, however, those symptoms were magical rituals. According to Malinow­ ski (1948, 25-36), people perform such rituals to influ­ ence the result of some process over which they think they have no rational means of control. He described the phenomenon as he observed it among the Trobriand Islanders: Thus in canoe building empirical knowledge of material, of technology, and of certain principles of stability and hydrodynamics, function in com­ pany and in close association with magic, each yet uncontaminated by the other. For example, they understalld perfectly well that the wider the span of the outrigger the greater the stability yet the smaller the resistance against strain. They can clearly explain why they have to give this span a certain traditional width, mea­ sured in fractions of the length of the dugout.Freshman English for Graduate Students 4 They can also explain, in rudimentary but clearly mechanical terms, how they have to behave in a sudden gale, why the outrigger must always be on the weather side, why the one type of canoe can and the other cannot beat. They have, in fact, a whole system of principles of sailing, embodied in a complex and rich terminology, traditionally handed on and obeyed as rationally and consis­ tently as is modern science by modern sailors.... But even with all their systematic knowledge, methodically applied, they are still at the mercy of powerful and incalculable tides, sudden gales during the monsoon season and unknown reefs. And here comes in their magic, performed over the canoe during its construction, carried out at the beginning and in the course of expeditions and resorted to in moments of real danger. (30-31) Just like the Trobriand sailors, sociologists who couldn't handle the dangers of writing in a rational way used magical charms, that dispelled anxiety, though without really affecting the result. So I asked the class: What are you so afraid of not being able to control rationally that you have to use all these magical spells and rituals? I'm no Freudian, but I did think they would resist answering the question. They didn't. On the contrary, they spoke easily and at length. They feared, to summarize the long discussion that followed, two things. They were afraid that they would not be able to organize their thoughts, that writing would be a big, confusing chaos that would drive them mad. They spoke feelingly about a second fear, that what they wrote would be "wrong" and that (unspecified) people would laugh at them. That seemed to account for more of the ritual. A second person who wrote on legal-sized, yellow, ruled tablets always started on the second page. Why? Well, she said, if anyone walked by, you could pull down the top sheet and cover what you had been writing so the passerby couldn't see.Freshman English for Graduate Students 5 Many of the rituals ensured that what was written could not be taken for a "finished" product, so no one could laugh at it. The excuse was built in. I think that's why even writers who type well often use such time­ wasting methods as longhand. nything written in longhand is clearly not yet done and so cannot be criticized as though it were. You can keep people from taking your writing as a serious expression of your abilities even more surely, however, by not writing at all. No one can read what has never been put on paper. Something important had happened in that class. As I also pointed out to them that first day, they had all told something quite shameful about themselves, and no one had died. (Here what had llappened resembled what might be called the "new California therapies," which rely on people revealing their psyches or bodies in public and discovering that the revelation, similarly, does not kill.) It surprised me that people in this class, many of whom knew each other quite well, knew nothing at all about each other's work habits and, in fact, had hardly ever seen each other's writing. I de­ cided to do something about that. I had originally told prospective class members that the class would emphasize, instead of writing, copy editing and rewriting. Therefore I made the price of admission to the class an already written paper on which they would now practice rewriting. Before tack­ ling these papers, however, I decided to show them what it meant to rewrite and edit. A colleague lent me a rough second draft of a paper she was working on. I distributed her three or four page "methods section" at the beginning of the second class, and we spent three hours rewriting it. Sociologists habitually use twerlty words where two will do, and we spent most of that afternoon cutting excess words. I used a trick I had often used in private lessons. With my pencil poised over a word or clause, I asked, "Does this need to be here? If not, I'm taking it out." I insisted that we must not, iUL making any change,Freshman English for Graduate Students 6 lose the slightest nuance of the author's thought. (I had in mind here the rules C. Wright Mills followed in his well-known "translation" of passages from Talcott Par­ sons Mills 1959, 27-31.) If no one defended the word or phrase, I took it out. I changed passive to active constructions, combined sentences, took long sen­ tences apart-all the things these students had once learned to do in freshman composition. At the end of three hours, we had reduced four pages to three­ quarters of a page without losing any nuance or essen­ tial detail. We worked on one long sentence-which consid­ ered the possible implications of what the paper had so far said-for quite a while, removing words and phrases until it was a quarter as long as it had been. I finally suggested (mischievously, but they weren't sure of that) that we cut the whole thing and just say, "So what?" Someone finally broke the stunned silence: "You could get away with that, but we couldn't." So we talked about tone, concluding that I couldn't get away with it either, unless I had properly prepared for that sort of tone, and it was appropriate to the occasion. The students felt very sorry for my colleague who had donated the pages we did this surgery on. They thought she had been humiliated, that it was lucky she hadn't been there to die of shame. In empathizing like that, they relied on their own unprofessional feelings, not realizing that people who write professionally, and write a lot, routinely rewrite as we just had. I wanted them to believe that this was not unusual and that they should expect to rewrite a lot, so I told them (truthfully) that I habitually rewrote manuscripts eight to ten times before publication (although not before giving them to my friends to read). Since, as I'll explain later, they thought that "good writers" (people like their teachers) got everything right the first time, that shocked them. This exercise had several results. The students were exhausted, never having spent so much time on or looked so closely at one piece of writing, never havingFreshman English for Graduate Students 7 imagined that anyone could spend so much time on such a job. They had seen and experimented with a number of standard editorial devices. But the most important result came at the end of the afternoon when, exhaustedly, one student-that wOJnderful student who says what others are thinking but know better than to say-said, "Gee, Howie, when yOll say it this way, it looks like something anybody could say." You bet. We talked about that. Was it what you said that was sociological, or was it the way yOll said it? Mind you, we had not replaced any technical sociological lan­ guage. That had not been the problem (it almost never is). We had replaced redundancies, "fancy writing," pompous phrases (for instance, my personal bete noire, "the way in which," for which a plain "how" can usually be substituted without losing anything but pretentiousness)-anything that could be simplified without damage to the thought. We decided that au­ thors tried to give substance and Neight to what they wrote by sounding academic, eve:n at the expense of their real meaning. We discovered some other things that interminable afternoon. Some of those long, redundant expressions couldn't be replaced because they had no underlying sense to replace. They were placeholders, marking a spot where the author should have said something plainer but had at the moment nothing plain to say. These spots nevertheless had to be filled because oth­ erwise the author would only have half a sentence. Writers did not use these meaningless phrases and sentences randomly or simply because they had bad writing habits. Certain situations evoked meaningless placeholders. Writers routinely use meaningless expressions to cover up two kinds of problems. Both kinds of prob­ lems reflect serious dilemmas of sociological theory. One problem has to do with agency: who did the things that your sentence alleges were done? Sociologists often prefer locutions that leave the answer to thatFreshman English for Graduate Students 8 question unclear, largely because many of their theo­ ries don't tell them who is doing what. In many sociological theories, things just happen without any­ one doing them. It's hard to find a subject for a sentence when "larger social forces" or "inexorable social proc­ esses" are at work. Avoiding saying who did it pro­ duces two characteristic faults of sociological writing: the habitual use of passive constructions and abstract nouns. If you say, for example, that "deviants were labeled," you don't have to say who labeled them. That is a theoretical error, not just bad writing. A major point of the labeling theory of deviance (outlined in Becker 1963) is precisely that someone labels the person devi­ ant, someone with the power to do it and good reasons for wanting to. If you leave those actors out, you misstate the theory, both in letter and spirit. Yet it is a common locution. Sociologists commit similar theoret­ ical errors when they say that society does this or that or that culture makes people do things, and sociologists do write that way all the time. Sociologists' inability or unwillingness to make causal statements similarly leads to bad writing. David Hume's Essay Concerning Human Understanding made us all nervous about claiming to demonstrate causal connections, and though few sociologists are as skeptical as Hume, most understand that despite the efforts of John Stuart Mill, the Vienna Circle and all the rest, they run serious scholarly risks when they allege that A causes B. Sociologists have many ways of describing how elements covary, most of them vacuous expressions hinting at what we would like, but don't dare, to say. Since we are afraid to say that A causes B, we say, "There is a tendency for them to covary" or "They seem to be associated." The reasons for doing this bring us back to the rituals of writing. We write that way because we fear that others will catch us in obvious errors if we do anything else, and laugh at us. Better to say something innocuousFreshman English for Graduate Students 9 but safe than something bold you might not be able to defend against criticism. Mind you, it would not be objectionable to say, "A varies with B," if that was what you really wanted to say, and it is certainly reasonable to say, "I think A causes B and my data support that by showing that they covary." But many people use such expressions to hint at stronger assertions they just don't want to take the rap for. They want to discover causes, because causes are scientifically iJlteresting, but don't want the philosophical responsibility. Every teacher of English composition and every guide to writing criticizes passive constructions, ab­ stract nouns, and most of the other faults I mentioned. I did not invent these standards. In fact, I learned them in composition classes myself. Altll0ugh the standards are thus independent of any particular school of thought, I believe that my preference for clarity and directness also has roots in the symbolic interactionist tradition of sociology, which focuses on real actors in real situations. My Brazilian colleague Gilberto Velho insists that these are ethnocentric standards, strongly favored in the Anglo-American tradition of plain speaking, but having no more warrant than the more flowery, indirect style of some European traditions. I think that's wrong, since some of the best writers in other languages also use a direct style. Similarly, Michael Schudson asked me, not unrea­ sonably, how someone ought to write who believes that structures-capitalist relations of production, for in­ stance-cause social phenomena. Should such a theo­ rist use passive constructions to indicate the passivity of the human actors involved? That question requires two answers. The simpler is that few serious theories of society leave no room for human agency. More impor­ tantly, passive constructions eveIl hide the agency attributed to systems and structures. Suppose a system does the labeling of deviants. Saying "deviants are labeled" covers that up too.Freshman English for Graduate Students 10 Much of what we removed from my colleague's paper in class consisted of what I named, for class purposes (with Wayne Booth's criticism of academic "Greek-fed, polysyllabic bullshit" (Booth 1979, 277) as legitimating precedent), "bullshit qualifications," vague phrases expressing a general readiness to aban­ don the point being made if anyone objects: "A tends to be related to B," "A might possibly tend to be related to B under some conditions," and similar cowardly qual­ ifiers. A real qualification says that A is related to B except under certain specified circumstances: I always shop for groceries at the Safeway unless it's closed; the positive relationship between income and education is stronger if you are white than if you are black. But the students, like other sociologists, habitually used less specific qualifications. They wanted to say that the relationship existed, but knew that someone would, sooner or later, find an exception. The nonspecific, ritual qualifier gave them an all-purpose loophole. If attacked, they could say they never said it was always true. Bullshit qualifications, making your statements fuzzy, ignore the philosophical and methodological tradition which holds that making generalizations in a strong universal form identifies negative evidence which can be used to improve them. As I asked people in the class about why they wrote the way they did, I learned that they had picked up many of their habits in high school and solidified them in college. What they had learned to write were term papers (see Shaughnessy's 1977, 85-6 discussion of the conditions of undergraduate writing). You write a term paper by doing whatever reading or research is required throughout the term and working out the paper in your head as you go along. But you write only one draft, perhaps after making an outline, usually the night before handing it in. Like a Japanese brush painting, you do it, and either it's OK or it isn't. College students have no time for rewriting, since they often have several papers due at the same time. The methodFreshman English for Graduate Students 11 works for undergraduates. Some become very adept at the format and turn out creditable, highly polished papers, working on them in their heads as they walk around campus, putting the words on paper as the assignments come due. Teachers know all this. If they aren't aware of the mechanics, they know the typical results and don't expect papers more coherent or highly polished than such a method can produce. Students who habitually work t.hat way understand­ ably worry about the draft they produce. They know it could be better but is not going to be. Whatever they put down is it. As long as that document is kept confiden­ tial, in the conventionally private teacher-under­ graduate relationship, it won't embarass the author too much. But the social organization of writing and reputation changes in graduate school. Teachers talk about your papers, for good or bad, to their colleagues and to other students. With luck, the papers grow into qualifying papers or dissertations, read by several faculty mem­ bers. Graduate students also write longer papers than undergraduates do. Students expert at the one-shot term paper cannot hold a longer paper in their heads so easily. That's when they start losing their ability to write. They cannot produce a one-draft paper and be confident that it will not provoke ridicule and criti­ cism. So they don't write. I didn't tell the students all this during the first class sessions, though I eventually did. I:nstead, I gave assign­ ments that would get them to give up the one-draft method of producing papers. They might then find alternate routines that were less painful and equally effective in earning academic rewards. A few adventur­ ous students in each of the several classes I have taught have trusted me enough to go along with these experi­ ments. My reputation for not being fierce weakened the traditional student fear of professors, and those who had taken other classes with me trusted my eccentric-Freshman English for Graduate Students 12 ities. Teachers who lack that advantage might have more trouble using some of these tricks. 1 told students that it didn't make much difference what they wrote in a first draft because they could always change it. Since what they put on a piece of paper was not necessarily final, they needn't worry so much about what they wrote. The only version that mattered was the last one. They had gotten a hint of how things could be changed and 1 promised to show them more. Our classroom editing and my interpretation of it sobered the students. 1 asked them to bring the papers 1 had required as a prerequisite for admission to the class (but had not yet collected) to the next session. (Some students balked at this. The second year 1taught the course, one said she wasn't going to bring a paper because she didn't have one. 1got angry: "Anyone who has been going to school as long as you have has plenty of papers. Bring one." Then the real reason came out: "1 don't have one that's good enough.") After collecting the papers and shuffling them thoroughly, 1 passed them out again, making sure that no one got his or her own. I asked them to edit the papers thoroughly. The next week they returned them to their authors. Stu­ dents sat soberly, looking to see what had been done. Plenty, was the answer. There was red ink everywhere. I asked them how they liked editing someone else's paper. They spoke at length, angrily. They had been surprised by how much work there was to do, at how many silly mistakes people made. After an hour of complaining, I asked them how they liked having their papers edited. Again they spoke angrily, but this time they complained that the person who read their paper lacked compassion, couldn't see what they had meant, had changed their text to say things they hadn't in­ tended at all. The smarter ones soon realized that they were talking about themselves, and the group fell silent as that sank in. 1said it was a lesson they ought to think about, and that now they could see that they had toFreshman English for Graduate Students 13 write so that well-meaning editors-and they had to assume their colleagues were well-meaning-could not mistake their meaning. Editors and colleagues would often rewrite their work, I told them, and they had better get used to it and not let their feelings be hurt by such experiences. They should try instead to write so clearly that no one could misuIlderstand and make changes they didn't like. Then I said that they could really start by writing almost anything, any kind of a rough draft, no matter how crude or confused, and make something good out of it. To prove it, I had to get someone to produce a first, uncensored draft, some ideas written with little care and no corrections. I explained that such a draft would help them find out what they might have to say. (This was one of the places where I invented what I did not know was likewise being developed by people in composition theory. Linda Flower 1979, 36, for in­ stance, describes and analyzes the same procedure as "Writer-Based prose," which "allows the writer free­ dom to generate a breadth of information and a variety of alternative relationships before locking himself or herself into a premature formulation.") It took some work to find someone who would try such a risky process. I distributed copies of the resulting document to the class. The person who contributed th.e piece made some nervous self-deprecating jokes about putting herself in jeopardy by allowing people to see it. To her surprise, what she had written amazed her classmates. They could see that it was mixed-up arid written badly, but they could also see, and said, that she had some really interesting ideas there that could be developed. They also openly admired her courage. (Other brave students have had the same effect on their peers in succeeding years.) This draft showed the author approaching her sub­ ject circuitously (like the writers described in Flower and Hayes 1981), not sure of what she wanted to say,Freshman English for Graduate Students 14 saying the same thing in several different ways. Com­ paring the versions made it easy to see the idea she had been circling around and to formulate it more con­ cisely. We found three or four ideas to work with in that way and could see, or sense, some connections between them. We agreed that the way to work with such a draft was to take notes on it, see what it contained, and then make an outline for another draft. Why bother avoiding redundancy or any of the other faults we had worked so hard to eliminate the week before, since it would be easy to get rid of them, using those newly learned skills, later? Worrying about those faults might slow you down, keep you from saying something in one of the ways that would give you the clue you needed. Better to edit afterward, rather than as you went. The students began to see that writing need not be a one-shot, all-or-nothing venture. It could have stages, each with its own criteria of excellence (as Flower and others could have told them, but perhaps it was better for them to discover it in their own experience). An insis­ tence on clarity and polish appropriate to a late version was entirely inapproppriate to earlier ones meant to get the ideas on paper. In coming to these conclusions, they replicated some of Flower's results and began to understand that worrying about rules of writing too early in the process could keep them from saying what they actually had to say (a point made in the language of cognitive psychology in Rose 1983). I don't want to exaggerate. My students did not throwaway their crutches and start to dance. But they saw that there were ways out of their troubles, which was all I had hoped for. Knowing what was possible, they could try it. Just knowing wasn't enough, of course. They had to use these devices, make them part of their writing routine, perhaps replacing some of the magical elements we had discussed. We did a number of other things in the seminar. We discussed rhetoric, reading Gusfield (1981) on the rhet­ oric of social science, and Orwell's "Politics and the15 Freshman English for Graduate Studlents English Language" (1954). Surprisingly, Gusfield the sociologist had a stronger impact than Orwell the writer. He showed how writers iTl the students' own field manipulated stylistic devices to sound "scien­ tific," particularly noting how passive constructions could produce a facade of impersonality the investiga­ tor could hide behind. We talked about scientific writ­ ing as a form of rhetoric, meant to persuade, and which forms of persuasion the scientific community consid­ ered okay and which illegitimate. I insisted on the rhetorical nature of scientific writing, although the students believed, with many of their elders, that some ways of writing illegitimately attempt to persuade while others just presented the facts and let them speak for themselves. (Sociologists of science and students of rhetoric have written extensively on this point. See, especially, Bazerman 1981, and Latour and Bastide 1983 and the accompanying bibliography.) That student I was so fond of helped me out again here. After we had discussed the rh.etoric of science at length, he said, "Okay, Howie, I know you never like to tell us what to do, but are you goiulg to tell us or not?" "Tell you what?" "How to write vvithout using rheto­ ric" As before, everyone had been hoping that I would reveal that secret. Just hearing it said aloud confirmed their worst fears. They couldn't \lvrite without using rhetoric and therefore they couldn't evade questions of style. During several years of teaching the course, I devel­ oped a theory of writing which describes the process that produces both the writing people do and the difficulties they have doing it. (The theory, in a more general form, appears in Art Worlds Becker 1982a, as a theory of the making of art works of all kinds. Though it grows out of a sociological social psychology quite different from the cognitive psychology dominating work in composition theory, my notions resemble those of Flower and Hayes and their colleagues.) Any work's eventual form results from all the choices madeFreshman English for Graduate Students 16 by all the people involved in producing it. When we write, we constantly make such choices as which idea to take up when; what words to use, in what order, to express it, what examples to give to make our meaning clearer. Of course, writing actually follows an even lengthier process of absorbing and developing ideas, similarly preceded by a process of absorbing impres­ sions and sorting them out. Each choice shapes the result. If that is a reasonable analysis, we kid ourselves when we think, sitting down to write, that we are composing freshly and can write anything at all. Our earlier choices-to look at it this way, to think about this example in developing our ideas, to use this way of gathering and storing data, to read this novel or watch that television program-rule out what we might oth­ erwise have chosen. Every time we answer a question about our work and what we have been finding or thinking, our choice of words affects the way we describe it the next time, perhaps when we are writing notes or making outlines. Most of the students had a more conventional view, embodied in the folk maxim that if you think clearly, you will write clearly. They thought they had to work everything out before they wrote Word One, having first assembled all their impressions, ideas, and data and explicitly decided every important question of theory and fact. Otherwise, they might get it wrong. They acted the belief out ritually by not beginning to write until they had every book and note they might possibly need piled up on their desks. They further thought they had a free choice in most of these matters, which led to remarks like "I think I'll use Durkheim for my theory section," as if they hadn't already decided the theoret­ ical issues that invoking Durkheim (or Weber or Marx) had suggested long before, in the way they had done their work. (Scholars in other fields will know which Great Names to substitute here.)17 Freshman English for Graduate Students My theory leads to the opposite view: you have already made many choices when you sit down to write, but probably don't know what they were. That leads, naturally, to some confusion, to a mixed-up early draft. But a mixed-up draft is no cause for shame. Rather, it shows you what your earlier choices were, what ideas, theoretical viewpoints, and conclusions you had already committed yourself to before you began writing. Knowing that you vvill write many more drafts, you know that you need not worry about this one's crudeness and lack of coherence. This one is for discovery, not for presentation (the distinction is C. Wright Mills's 1959, 222, following Reichenbach). Writing an early rough draft, then, shows you all the earlier decisions that now shape ,,,,hat you can write. You cannot "use" Marx if Durkheim's ideas shaped your thinking. You cannot write about what the data you gathered don't tell you about, or your method of storing them doesn't let you use them for. You see what you have and don't have, what you have already done and already know, and what is left to do. You see that the only job left-even though YOlL have just begun to write-is to make it all clearer. The rough draft shows you what needs to be made clearer; the skills of rewriting and copy editing let you do it. It's not that easy, of course. The next choices, made in editing and rewriting, also shape the result. You can no longer do anything you want, but there are plenty of choices left. These further questioTILs of language, orga­ nization, and tone often give authors great trouble because they imply commitments other than the ones already made. If you use Durkheim to discuss Marxian ideas or the language of survey research to discuss an ethnographic study, you will probably find yourself working at cross purposes. Such COllfusions had caused the theoretical difficulties we discovered in our copy editing exercises in the seminar. If you start writing early in Y0l.lr research-before you have all your data, for instance-you can beginFreshman English for Graduate Students 18 cleaning up your thinking sooner. Writing a draft without data makes clearer what you would like to discuss and, therefore, what data you will have to get. Writing can thus shape your research design. This differs from the more common notion that you do your research first and then "write it up." This extends the Flower-Hayes (1981) idea that the early phases of writing lead writers to see what they will have to do in the later stages. Making your work clearer involves considerations of audience. Who is it supposed to be clearer to? Who will read what you write? \Vhat do they have to know so that they will not misread or find what you say obscure or unintelligible? You will write one way for the people you work with closely on a joint project, another way for professional colleagues in your subspecialty, still another for professional colleagues in other specialties and disciplines, and differently yet for the "intelligent layman." How can you find out what readers will understand? You can give your early drafts to sample members of your intended audience and ask them what they think. That is what the seminar members found so frightening and troublesome, because showing people early drafts exposed them to ridicule and shame. So the prescrip­ tion, while simple, may not be workable. You can only show your less-than-perfect work to people if you have learned-as I hoped the seminar's members had from our class exercises-that you will not be harmed if people see it. Naturally, not everyone is a good audi­ ence for early drafts. We discovered that while editing each other's papers. Some people, finding it difficult to treat early drafts as early, insist on criticizing them with the standards appropriate to finished products. Some readers have better editorial judgment than others, and you need a circle of people you can trust to respond appropriately to the stage your work is in. In addition to a theory of the act of writing, then, we also need a theory of the social organization of writingFreshman English for Graduate Students 19 as a professional activity. Because rnost people write in absolute privacy, readers attribute the results to the author alone and credit or debit them to his or her professional reputational account. I use bookkeeping language because most people secretly think of it that way. Why do writers work so privately? Most of them, as I said earlier, acquire their writirlg habits, complete with all the rituals designed to eliminate chaos and laughable results, in high school or college as adapta­ tions to the situations in which thLey then write. The student's situation rewards quick, competent prepara­ tion of short, passable papers, not the skills of rewriting and redoing. (According to Woody Allen, "Eighty per­ cent of life is getting it done and handing it in on time.") Smart students-the smarter they are, the quicker they learn-don't bother 'with useless skills. The first draft, being the only one, counts. Students find the skill of writing short papers quickly less useful as they advance in graduate school. During their first few years, they may, depending on the department, have to write the same kind of papers they wrote as undergraduates. But eventually they have to write longer papers, making more complex arguments based on more complicated data. Few people can write such papers in their heads and get it right on the first try, though students may naively think that good writ­ ers routinely do. ("Getting it right" means putting the argument so clearly that the paper begins by asserting what it later demonstrates.) So students flounder, fear "getting things wrong," and don't get it done on time. Writing at the last minute, they produce papers with interesting ideas, superficial coherence, and no clear underlying argument-interesting early drafts which they nevertheless want treated as en.d results. Some young sociologists (and lnany other young scholars as well) get into situations after graduate work that reward that style of work even less. Scholarly disciplines do not furnish such neatly marked dead-