Getting the dissertation written can be as problematic for supervisors as it is for doctoral students. Our conversations with colleagues suggest that the issue of writing often remains a problem from the start to the finish of candidature. Supervisors describe students as either ‘being able to write’ — or not. Frustrations over turgid prose, badly structured arguments and laboured literature reviews are common. Supervisors have numerous questions. Why can’t my students write an argument? How can I help them say things more simply? What can I do to get my students to write more logically? Why is their writing so tentative?