The Ghostwriter

Have you ever wondered just who writes those papers handed in by cheating students? An?article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, written by a writer for a “custom-essay company,” has some answers for you. Calling himself Ed Dante (clever!), he?tells the story of one paper he wrote: “The 75-page paper on business ethics ultimately expanded into a 160-page graduate thesis, every word of which was written by me. I can’t remember the name of my client, but it’s her name on my work. We collaborated for months.” Dante writes that cheating is particularly prevalent in the education field: “I’ve written papers for students in elementary-education programs, special-education majors, and ESL-training courses. I’ve written lesson plans for aspiring high-school teachers, and I’ve synthesized reports from notes that customers have taken during classroom observations. I’ve written essays for those studying to become school administrators, and I’ve completed theses for those on course to become principals. In the enormous conspiracy that is student cheating, the frontline intelligence community is infiltrated by double agents.” (HT: Marginal Revolution) [%comments]

Al Dente.

No, no, no.

I write Ed Dante's stuff.


Being a teacher this sickens me.

Ian Kemmish

Either every word was his, or else they collaborated. Both cannot simultaneously be true (except in the most trivial and superficial sense).

We already know he's ethically challenged, and he's been caught out in a lie. Why believe a single word he writes in what he presumably regards as free advertising for his services?


Being a teacher, you have awful sentence structure.

Billie Criswell

As a writer who often takes ghostwriting jobs, I think that this particular writer puts money over morality. I would never take a job writing a student's paper, or a teacher's lesson plan--though I have certainly seen the ads for such jobs out there.

I would rather have less money and more integrity. But, honestly, any way you cut it, ghostwriting in a generally thankless job, and a type of writing that I do not prefer. My ghostwriting jobs include blogging and writing newsletters--something that I hope I won't have to do once I am in a better financial position.... because, seriously, who wants someone else taking credit for their work?!

Tim Vaughan

As a karate expert, I agree that this is absolutely appalling.

david f

why am i not surprised?

our students cheat, and their educators and administrators cheat.

and then we wonder why we're falling behind the rest of the world.


This does not surprise me. In undergrad and law school, I was forever running into classmates who I would describe as illterate (in the true sense of the word that means "unable to write"). I am now part-time adjunct professor at a commuter law school. Two-thirds of my students cannot not write a succint, coherent email, let alone a legal memo or brief.


Why is this so wrong? I am not a clever writer, but I come up with great ideas to better my business. I often collaborate with my marketing department so they can move my ideas forward.


Why is it wrong? When asked, would you claim that you did not collaborate with the marketing department, acting as though you did all the work yourself?

As a student I find this stupid. I am of the belief that if I cant get there without cheating, then I probably am not supposed to be there in the first place.


Ian - how exactly is he advertising if nobody knows who he is?

Justin James

The guy makes a bit over $66,000 a year. While that might not be worth writing home about to most, the fact is, it's more than almost any other "working writer" out there makes. This guy doesn't create the demand for his services. He's just fulfilling it.

What I am more curious about is what students can actually afford his services. I never met a grad student with $2k kicking around the bank. I know that if I asked my parents for $2k while in school, they would have some very pointed questions for me.



I'm not exactly where the line should be drawn here. As that rarity, a literate native English speaker in a technical field, I've frequently helped my fellow students & colleagues with writing papers; help that might entail anything from a quick scan for grammar & spelling errors to major reorganizations. I can't see this as cheating, any more than it would be cheating to have a secretary type a final draft. It's the research that matters, not the words in which it's presented.


I'm honestly conflicted about some of this.

When is hiring an editor wrong? How about paying for a spell checker? Would it be unacceptable to co-author a paper for a class? If so, how do you credit it? Why should it be wrong?

I'm concerned that the more we draw meaningless distinctions around every corner of 'plagiarism' the more that the core becomes fuzzy and corrupted. There seem to be enough really wrong things being done that we don't need to chase down people who need help with their sentance structure; the idea of citing serious intellectual contributions gets lost.

I'm also concerned that teachers aren't doing the hard work of teaching people how to get the job done, how to collaborate, and how to meaningfully integrate intellectual activity - all of this is hard. Hard to design, hard to monitor and hard to grade. Teachers prefer 'test banks' (but get upset when they are used as .. study aids? or is it cheating to have a pile of hundreds of questions, in advance? and should teachers design their own tests rather than using commercial venders for their educational material? when does _that_ become cheating?).

Truthfully, society needs to settle all of this, because the old battle lines, the old assumptions, are being swept away.



Of course there are scores of kids who are plain old lazy and want to get out of writing papers, but there are plenty of bright kids who are afraid of being judged on their paper-writing abilities while their strengths lay elsewhere.

I'd say there are plenty of students who competently know the material they are taught, but are unable or afraid to translate that into a paper graded often not on the material they are presenting, but the way in which they present it.

Maybe educators need to explore alternative methods of assessing students learning other than assigning a 30 page paper they're not going to read anyway.

Also, the effort to reward ratio is completely out of whack. If you know the material and can apply it competently, why spend weeks composing a paper when someone else can do it for you for a letter grade that no one will ever see?


What fascinates me is that he makes so little. If he's written 5000 pages at a roughly 300 words per page, that's 1,500,000 words for $66K which works out to be around 4.4 cents per word.

I know for example, that translators make around 10-25 cents per word (that's the amount they end up receiving, not what their firm charges), so it seems to me that he's massively underpaid.

I'm also told that college application consultants make more than that for a lot less work. Either the guy is not pricing himself properly or the market in this case is not very efficient. That would make sense since there isn't an auction market where you can have proper price discovery.


@ Jimmy - I think you also need to consider who is paying for the services you compare. Translators and college application consultants probably are hired by people with deeper pockets than students. Plus if he increases his price too much some students for easier work will simply no cheat.

I also wonder if the teachers and admin that cheated while getting their creditentials for their position look harder for cheaters or are more relaxed?


What's wrong with this???

Well, let's see: it's a fraud that is perpetrated to advance one's interests that defeats not only the purpose of education but also undermines the school, one's colleagues, and the degree or certificate that one receives. It's a pretty shabby business all around.

Ghost writing in the commercial sphere is different but still a bit dodgy. Collaboration that is beyond what one would describe in an acknowledgements section should be credited.

In the academic world, though, collaboration must be acknowledged just as all sources should be noted.

Why this guy is paid so poorly, though, find surprising. A per-word analysis is not as meaningful here because this ripping this stuff off by the yard. Let's say a 1000 word college essay takes him 3 hours total. would tink no less than $150-$200. That's a good hourly; and he could probably live ok on one fraud a day.


It's no surprise that most of the ghost-written essays are done for education majors, because no matter how dumb they are, they still get certified and can't be fired. That thankfully won't work for engineers or even taxi drivers--professions that make a serious contribution to our society.

My sister sent herself through university financed by ghost-writing essays for others!


Some people should read the article the post is about, before they comment about this article.
He gets only half what is paid, the rest goes to his 'agent'.
@Ian Kemmish
I am no native English speaker, but here, a collaboration does not say something about who wrote what. He writes with 'input' from the students. And ethics in economics?
@Justin James
He wrote who can afford this, rich kids or people who are high in debts for this 'education', so that this money won't matter any more.

@Billie Criswell
There is no place for integrity in an anonymous job.