Monday, March 31, 2008

A Hawthorne Effect

As Teppo points out in his comment to this post, writing is not often taught in doctoral programmes. I happen to be an exception to that rule. A while back, the Doctoral School on Knowledge and Management at the Copenhagen Business School hired me as its resident writing consultant.

Because "the literature" in a given field (like organization theory or management studies) is often written in English, academic writing presents specific challenges for academics in non-English speaking countries. Research as a Second Language is part of the answer to those challenges. I think other doctoral programmes, especially in continental Europe, can learn from our example.

It is not actually necessary to go all out and hire a full-time writing consultant. While I do hold a full-time (non-academic) position at the department, only half my time goes the PhD students. The other half is spent as an in-house editor for the department's faculty. My functions in the doctoral school could probably be carried out by a devoted faculty member. Such a person could be given a reduced teaching load in exchange for supervising the writing efforts of PhD students.

My work can be divided into three main categories: supervision, workshops, and courses. I read what the PhD students are writing and offer advice on how to improve it. I also hold regular workshops (participants sign up for sixteen 1.5 hour sessions at a time in groups of 4-6). Finally, I organize courses on writing and scholarship practices.

Fabio's post about what professors can do to help their graduate students emphasizes "timeliness". I agree with this. In fact, I think this more than just a question of getting drafts back to students as quickly as possible. It is about ensuring that there is a continual process of writing and criticism, a cycle that repeats. Low amplitude, high frequency.

The best thing you can do for your doctoral students, at least from the point of view of improving their writing, is to have them submit short pieces of writing to you on a regular basis, providing detailed response and a sustained conversation about the writing process. I sometimes think my influence at the department is largely a "Hawthorne effect": it is not the specific advice I give but the general interest I take in people's writing that improves it.

It's a bit like being a music teacher: someone who notices when the student hasn't been practicing. And when the student has.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Shadow Stabbing#7: The Autre

"He moves his words like a prizefighter."

Pugilism is the sport of boxing. The Latin can be traced back to the Greek "pug", meaning fist. The Romans had something called a "pugillary" (pugillaris), which was a kind writing tablet (you held it in your hand, your fist). Norman Mailer compared writing with boxing and, characteristically, himself with Muhammad Ali. Irving Layton once wrote a poem called "Poetry as the Fine Art of Pugilism". Boxing and writing: things we do with our hands.

In this week's video I'm trying to bring out the force of representation—its "symbolic violence". But it's a pretty tame film, don't worry. I have found that there is a tension in postmodern writing between its hard-boiled awareness of the violence of writing and the compassionate vulnerability of its concern for "the Other". It's more than just the plea for a fair fight. It is about respecting the very real struggle over the significance of a text.

I'm still spending a disproportionate amount of time on the technical aspects of film making. I'm once again prouder of the audio-visual effects in this video than the intellectual content. I need to find a better way of planning what I'm going to say, without falling back on a scripted performance. I've now done seven; I have got nine more to go to finish out the first "season". Comments and suggestions are welcome. And do feel free to rate these videos on YouTube.

Next week, inspired by this post at (especially Teppo's first comment), I'm going to talk about how doctoral schools can support the efforts of PhD students to become good writers. I have some experience in that area. Until then, keep searching ... and keep your fists up!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

The Force of Representation

"Modern thought," said Deleuze in 1968 (in his preface to Difference and Repetition), "is born of the failure of representation, of the loss of identities, and of the discovery of all the forces that act under the representation of the identical." Today, we normally call this "postmodern" thought. Deleuze probably meant "contemporary" or "our thinking today"; he was drawing attention to something that was only just becoming clear to philosophers at the time.

What we call "modern" (sometimes "classical") thought is born of a faith in representation, of the maintainance of identities, and of the repression of all the forces that act under the representation of the identical. "Repression" is a strong word. "Discipline" might be better. Modern thought takes representation for granted as an orderly process. It assumes that the forces at work under a representation are well-organized, that they can be trusted to dependably make one thing (the sign) take the place (signify) of another thing (the signified).

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Crisis of Representation

"Then came the five brief, impassioned, jubilant, enigmatic years."

This sentence appears in Michel Focault's preface to Deleuze and Guattari's Anti-Oedipus, first published in 1972. He is referring to the years 1966-1970. With the fourtieth anniversary of the events of May 1968 coming up, now is a good time to reflect (again) on what they meant.

According to Foucault, the period that came before was characterized by "a certain way of thinking correctly, a certain style of political discourse, a certain ethics of the intellectual," that was largely defined by Marxism, psychoanalysis and structuralism. French post-modernism came into its own when the events of 1968* violently overturned these "three requirements that made the strange occupation of writing and speaking a measure of truth about oneself and one's time acceptable."

Foucault and Deleuze would later agree about something they called "the indignity of speaking for others". That insight is at the core of the changes in French intellectual culture of the late 1960s. I would argue that we are still living, and especially writing, in this crisis of representation. Or rather, I would argue that the option of writing in this crisis remains open to us.

"Modern thought," said Deleuze (in his preface to Difference and Repetition), "is born of the failure of representation, the loss of identities, and the discovery of all the forces that act under the representation of the identical. The modern world is one of simulacra." This goes both for the representation of [both] political subjects and scientific objects. In his Archaeology of Knowledge (1969), Foucault would suggest understanding the formation of objects by bringing about their "depresentification". This is, roughly speaking, the opposite of representing them.

If French intellectual ethics before 1966 allowed writers to represent the world and our history straightforwardly, i.e., to speak on behalf of it on the basis of their research ('I've looked into it and it turns out that ...'), this was no longer possible in the aftermath of 1968. Any claim to be speaking "the truth" was now suspect. Who was an intellectual, anyway? What claim did the intellectual have on the truth?

Today, it is not even as simple as not having the right to represent. The revolution, after all, was not successful. As Foucault points out, the passion and the jubilation were brief. The enigma passed. Much of the intellectual world (especially outside France) went back to the old way of doing things, 'uncritically' representing things and people, i.e., proceeding as though there was no crisis, as though their theories and methods gave them all the authority they needed to speak for the world and for history.

Postmodern writing expresses a commitment to the spirit of 1968. It would be unfair to call it nostalgic. Rather, it proposes an intellectual style that remains in opposition to certain ways of "thinking correctly". But this style, which of course is also a style of writing, or a range of such styles, has its own standards of correctness—or incorrectness, if you prefer. The writer must continuously undermine the tendency to read a text as a representation, as something other than a simulacrum, as something that is speaking for something or someone else. The writer must refuse to represent its subject-matter, must not try speak on its behalf, but instead engage with "all the forces that act under the representation of the identical".

It isn't easy, of course. But it is, today, one approach to research in the social sciences, including management studies. Once you have made the commitment, you have defined your problem of writing in a particular way.

[More here.]

Update (19/05/09): I want to emphasize the words "came into its own". Postmodernism did not begin in 1968, but May 1968 marks the point at which postmodernist thinking went definitively "mainstream" as it were. For many, what would later be called the "postmodern condition" was now a reality.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Continental Divide

As a European, he was acutely aware of being cut off from France.

Cyril Connolly
Introduction to the Unquiet Grave

I hope everyone has had a great Easter. Our thoughts this week will turn to French thought. More precisely, I want to look at the influence of people like Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze, Levinas and Blanchot on management writing today. This means crossing the divide between two languages (French and English) and the divide between so-called "analytic" and "continental" philosophical traditions. Let's see how it goes.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Shadow Stabbing #6: Glossy Magazines

This week's webcast is dedicated to the wonderfully helpful staff of the CBS Library. Liv, our faculty librarian, was the first to take advantage of the fact that the space behind me really is "for rent". The work of librarians, I should say, has long been a source inspiration for my own work as an editor. We may not really know what you know; but we make knowing practicable behind the scenes.

Practice makes perfect and it's getting easier and easier to make these videos. This time it took me under two hours to record, edit, and upload Shadow Stabbing to YouTube. (Impatient fans can usually see the webcast on YouTube on Thursday evening when I upload it. Friday I post it to this blog.) Next time I'll know where the "left" and "right" of the image really is. In any case, making these videos is becoming a fun part of my routine.

I've also enjoyed writing this week's posts about how to "gloss" your work. Writing the ASQ and HBR glosses demand that you reflect on the theoretical and practical implications of your work, respectively. I now suggest the New Yorker, the Economist, and Harper's as imaginary glosses of a lay perspective on your research. Management theoreticians and practitioners are both professionals. Magazines publish more "popular" accounts. (Donald Hambrick's essay in the AMJ and his short piece in BusinessWeek on the same subject are good illustrations of this difference.) In any case, do take the time to read some good prose in English.

Put a mark in your calendar for April 8, 14.00-16.00. I will be holding a seminar about Karl Weick's scholarly breaching as part of my attempt to put an "ASQ gloss" on my work. It will be held here at the department in room 3.135. A draft of the paper will be ready by Friday, March 28. Let me know if you want a copy.

RSL is going on vacation until Tuesday, March 25. Have a Happy Easter. If you are also taking a vacation, do remember NOT to write. Taking time off is important. Otherwise, keep searching.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I'm grateful to Teppo over at for bringing up Donald Hambrick's objections to a supposed "theory fetish" cultivated by management studies. Hambrick has published an essay called "The Field of Management’s Devotion to Theory: Too Much of a Good Thing?" in the Academy of Management Review (2007, vol. 50, no. 6) and a shorter piece in BusinessWeek. This post is mainly a reposting of the comments I left over at

Hambrick points to a difference between the frequency of the word “theory” in the ASQ and the Journal of Finance. My off-the-cuff analysis of this difference is that finance is more theoretically inertial than organisation theory (or management studies) as a field. Putting the point in Kuhnian terms, I would guess that finance has a much more stable set of "symbolic generalizations" and much less problematic "metaphysical models" than we have in organization studies. His statistics, predictably, show that theory is not as much of an issue in finance as in organization theory.

But Hambrick also talks about a paper in the Journal of Marketing on the “doppelgänger brand image” (AMJ, p. 1347). I’d have a difficult time defending my point about symbolic generalisations in the case of branding “theory”; but Kuhn might still help us to understand the absence of overt references to theory with the notion of "shared values". (I'm going to have to devote a week to theorizing soon.)

Hambrick’s epidemiology example (AMJ, p. 1348) is not very well chosen, to my mind. After all, what is epidemiology but the study of “empirical patterns” of illness? What theory would the editors demand beyond the background theories about the relation of symtoms, death rates, etc., etc., to common causes? Now, what if a journal of cancer research rejected the paper? Well, then they’d be right to. Without a link to a theory about the causal mechanism, the merely disturbing pattern is not publishable in that field.

Hambrick complains that "straightforward tests of existing theories usually don't qualify" as a contribution to theory (1350). He's right about this; they don’t. But that’s because the only "straightforward" test is one that confirms the theory. So, since theories are already the received view (or at least an acceptable position), confirmations are not interesting. Another confirmation doesn't change anything. Disconfirmations, however, imply (at least the need for) modifications of a theory. That's the real connection between testing and theory; and its the good reason "simple tests" aren’t publishable.

I won't get into the very problematic idea of "facts without theory" (1348), except to say that the importance and interest of "important and interesting facts" depends entirely on your point-of-view, i.e., your theory.

Finally, Hambrick blames the theory fetish for bad writing. “Our insistence on theory,” he says, “has caused a lot of bad writing.” Nonsense! There’s lots of bad atheoretical writing out there. And lots of great theoretical writing. Theory does not cause style; it simply sets up the stylistic problem for the writer in a particular way. So does the task of "documenting and dissecting a fascinating, important phenomenon" without theory (1348).

Bad theoretical prose does have recognizable characteristics. Hambrick's epithets ("contorted" and "ponderous") are apt. But the fact that theoretical concerns often lead to a different kind of badness than empirical concerns does not prove that theorizing itself is to blame for that badness. Writing badly is the cause of bad writing.


Practice is to managers what theory is to researchers. It is the focus of their concern. It is where they seek to establish order, or subvert it. It is what they are trying to change or to maintain. A manager cannot simply implement a new practice and a researcher cannot simply establish a new theory. Both are given an order within which to accomplish what they can, and this order includes a tendency, a propensity to change. And a resistance to change. Theories and practices are orders of experience, programmes of perception and of action. We suffer the distance between them as we cross it.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

The HBR Gloss

On Monday, I talked about what an "ASQ gloss" on your research might look like. (A gloss is just a way of interpreting or explaining something. It is arguably a bit like political 'spin'—but it is not as infamous. As some of you have noticed, however, there is an intentional pun here on the 'glossy' pages of magazines.) The important thing here is not actually to get everything you discover published in ASQ, but to always be working on an article that aspires in that direction. It sheds a particular light on your ideas to imagine getting through ASQ's review process (and better: actually getting reviews back from ASQ). The same can be said about what I will today call the "HBR gloss".

The Harvard Business Review is a practioner review, not a scientific quarterly. It is to practice, we might say, what the Administrative Science Quarterly is to theory. In addition to demanding that articles "advance understanding", ASQ's notice to its contributors says that "if manuscripts contain no theory, their value is suspect." By contrast, HBR's "Guidelines for Authors" say, "When evaluating an idea, our editors often look for two things first—what they call the 'aha!'—How compelling is the insight?—and the 'so what?'—How much does this idea benefit managers in practice?" ASQ also wants an 'aha!' (new understanding) but it defines 'so what?' a bit differently: How much does this idea benefit researchers in theory?

Both journals publish broadly in fields normally housed at business schools, including organization studies. Publishing in either journal is good both for your career and your department's reputation. Publications in ASQ and HBR normally count about the same in business school rankings, for example, so your present and future department heads will be impressed. More importantly, publications in both journals are likely to be read by people you would like to talk to about your research.

But there is that difference in emphasis between theory and practice. Some library databases, like EBSCO's Business Source Complete, don't group HBR as an "academic journal", for example, in part because it is not peer-reviewed. HBR is really a magazine for managers, though it often reports on research.

There is also an important difference in terms of authorship. ASQ will evaluate your idea in part by how well you write about it. HBR, by contrast, asks you only to submit a proposal, i.e., the core of the idea, and has a very proactive editorial policy, which sometimes means that they will essentially write the article for you. "Nearly all HBR articles undergo extensive editing and rewriting, and HBR typically holds copyright on the finished product. Authors continue to own the underlying ideas in the article."

So when glossing your ideas for HBR, you are not drafting a particular kind of article but writing a particular kind of proposal. While HBR has other "departments", I would suggest carrying out this thought experiment in the direction of a "feature article". What would such an article proposal look like if it were about your research?

As the guidelines point out, the challenge is to answer six questions and write a 500-750 word "narrative outline". The first two questions are the 'aha!' and 'so what?' already mentioned: the novel insight and the practical relevance. HBR then asks you also to specify the sorts of companies that could and could not make use of your ideas (this is a very useful exercise in general). The last three questions offer the challenge of accounting for your specifically academic expertise (other kinds of experts may publish in HBR, but my remarks here are addressed to researchers). You need to describe your research (the sorts of studies you do), your field (including some theory), and the source of your authority (that's essentially an epistemological exercise: why should anyone listen to you?). You need to do this in convincing, easily assessable terms.

Whether or not you ever get published in HBR, having an HBR proposal for each of your major research results (and a copy of HBR's polite rejection thereof) will be of great use to you. So will having an ASQ-aspiring manuscript. There are other journals and other practioner reviews.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Perception and Action

A theory is a programme of perception, said Pierre Bourdieu. What are the theoretical implications of your research? Well, what should researchers see differently now that it is done? And who are these researchers? What are the practical implications of your research? Well, what should managers do differently after you show them what you've seen? Which managers? A practice is a programme of action.

Monday, March 10, 2008

ASQ and Theory

I'm breaking my discipline tonight because I forgot to say something about how the Administrative Science Quarterly approaches theory. Here's the relevant portion of the "Notice to Contributors":

Theory is how we move to further research and improved practice. If manuscripts contain no theory, their value is suspect. Ungrounded theory, however, is no more helpful than are atheoretical data. We are receptive to multiple forms of grounding but not to a complete avoidance of grounding.

It was the crux of an important discussion about the status of theory in organization studies back in the mid-1990s. In 1995, ASQ (vol 40) published an exchange between Robert Sutton and Barry Staw, on one side, and Karl Weick, on the other. They complement another important exchange of views between Jeffrey Pfeffer ("Barriers to the Advance of Organization Science", Academy of Management Review 18(4), 1993) and John van Maanen ("Style as Theory", Organization Science 6 (1), 1995) on the status of "paradigms" in management studies. (Readers of Thomas Kuhn will know that "paradigms" are basically what researchers themselves call "theories"—long story.)

These discussions, which are of course ongoing, show that there is little consensus about what theory is among established organization theorists. But, as the notice just quoted shows, that does not keep anyone from demanding its presence in articles. So what is theory in the sense (minimally) required by ASQ? My short answer is that it is the difference between data and observation.

A theory is the background against which what is "given" (data) is observed as a sign of an underlying order, or disorder as the case may be. The theory is the framework within which what we see becomes meaningful; it is the discipline by which we pass from merely seeing to seeing-as.

As ASQ makes clear, many different frameworks are available, and it does not propose to identify any of them in advance as better or worse than the others. In the end, whether or not your observational framework is interesting depends on what you have observed. ASQ simply demands that you say something about both what you observed and the way you were disposed to observe those things rather than others.

This is more than just method. It is not just about how you went about your research, how you discovered what you did, and how you avoided common sources of error. It is about how you were conditioned to interpret your discovery as a meaningful experience for organization studies. In the "ASQ gloss" of your research you have to account explicitly for this disposition to make sense of what you see. That, in a nutshell, is your theory of organization.

The ASQ Gloss

The Administrative Science Quarterly is one of the top journals in organization theory. This week, I want to discuss how and why one might get one's work published there.

ASQ has a very useful "notice to contributors", which we can use to talk about what a good academic paper is more generally. ASQ is deliberately "vague" about its preferences for particular topics. It is also open to a wide variety of styles. But it insists that articles be "well argued and well written. By well argued we mean that the argument is clear and logical; by well written we mean that the argument is accessible and well phrased."

Also, ASQ prefers "compact presentations" because "very long manuscripts [often] contain an unclear line of argument, multiple arguments, or no argument at all. Each manuscript should contain one key point, which the author should be able to state in one sentence."

ASQ offers writers in organization theory an opportunity to produce (and publish) a particular kind of a paper. In my opinion, everyone should always be working on a paper for the ASQ, at least in the privacy of their own minds. There should always be an "ASQ gloss" in progress. (There should also be an "HBR gloss". I'll talk about that on Wednesday.)

The ASQ version of your research is relatively short, clearly written, and well argued. It is an occasion to focus both the point of your research and its referential frame:

Each manuscript should contain one key point, which the author should be able to state in one sentence. Digressions from one key point are common when authors cite more literature than is necessary to frame and justify an argument.

Before the Easter break, I am going to put together a first draft of my critique of Sensemaking in Organizations, giving it this "ASQ gloss". This is essentially an editing task, not a writing task, nor even a research task. All the scholarship is done. The paper will simply combine my most recent discovery with the previous examples of questionable scholarship that I have written about elsewhere.

ASQ notes that

the basic flaw common to rejected manuscripts is that authors are unable to evaluate critically their own work and seem to make insufficient use of colleagues before the work is submitted. All work has alternative explanations. All work contains flaws. The best way to recognize flaws is to discard the discussion section, ask what was learned and what is wrong with it, and frame the discussion in terms of these discoveries. To do this is to anticipate reviewers and improve the probability of acceptance.

I agree with this approach. In my study of Weick's scholarship I have sought criticism from peers for a long time. I have even left a trail. See, for example, the ephemeral "notes" that Henrik Graham and I published, my working paper "Textual Promiscuity" (PDF file), and my conference paper "Soft Constraints". The ASQ gloss I'm now going for will be achieved by reworking these earlier notes and drafts.

Friday, March 07, 2008

Shadow Stabbing #5: Research as a Force

Shadow Stabbing is devoted to the basic principle of all training and mastery this week. We hear from the most famous guru of them all. The idea of presenting your ideas in 8000, 500, and 100 words that I allude to is developed a bit further in this post.

* * *

It has been harder to explain the rules that govern the proper use of the comma in English than I thought. Please read the comments to the "Clause & Commma" post, for example, where Jonathan points out that the example I constructed (once again) doesn't really show what I want it to show.

Thursday, March 06, 2008


Commas cleave sentences with contingency. Whenever you use a comma, something could have been done differently (but not necessarily better). Try rewriting a paragraph to remove every comma, dash, and parenthesis.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Clause & Comma

Jonathan asks whether we shouldn't "distinguish between commas separating whole clauses and those merely separating words in a series" when deciding whether to stop and breathe at them. (Jonathan asks, "Shouldn't you distinguish between commas separating whole clauses and those merely separating words in a series?" Notice the comma after "asks" here, which is not used with "whether".)

Items on a list are separated by short pauses. As an exercise, exagerating this pause by breathing can reveal what they are doing. The CMS (6.19) and Lasch, for example, agree that a comma should precede the conjunction at the end of a series. That this implies a pause can be seen in the following list:

Clegg (2002), Jones (2003), and Fleming and Spicer (2004) are often cited in mainstream organization theory.

The comma (the pause, the breath) helps us to distinguish the "and" that separates the last two items in the series and the "and" that is part of the last item.

Another kind of series arises when we use several adjectives to modify a noun.

Ron is a careful, thorough scholar.

But the comma (and the pause) are not used "if the noun and the adjective immediately preceding it are conceived as a unit" (CMS 6.39).

Karl is a famous social scientist.

But Jonathan is right that the pausing, breathing comma is mainly intended to separate whole clauses. In defense of my epigram, however, I did say, "Try reading what you have written out loud. Breathe at the commas." That is, do it as an experiment every once in a while, not necessarily every time you read. One of the reasons I say this is that commas in Danish work very differently. When I read out loud to my children in Danish I sometimes ruin the sentence by pausing at a comma that serves a purely grammatical function.

Let me conclude with a word on using commas with "not only" (CMS 6.41).

Recent work in organization theory, not only subscribes to a post-structuralist ontological position, but also pursues an increasingly radical politics of human liberation.

[Update: as Jonathan points out in the comments, this may not be an especially good example of what I am trying to show. Separating the noun from the verb phrase with a comma was ill-advised. I was aiming for something more like: "Recent work in organization theory follows a post-structuralist strategy, not only under the banners of the standard epistemological and ontological arguments, but also in pursuit of an increasingly radical politics of human liberation."]

The commas here allow your reader to clearly distinguish the two clauses. Note that they are "subscribes to a post-structuralist ontological position" and "pursues an increasingly radical politics of human liberation". Here all of "... , not only ..., but also ..." serves to set off a clause that could be removed without undermining the grammar of the sentence:

Recent work in organization theory follows a post-structuralist strategy in pursuit of an increasingly radical politics of human liberation.

I have no idea how I am going to make a video post on this subject.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008


The comma should give us pause. It indicates a short break in the sentence, just long enough to take a breath. Try reading what you have written out loud. Breathe at the commas.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Comma

...a useful symbol the existence of which many novices, and many professional writers as well, particularly journalists, seem to have irretrievably forgotten.

Christopher Lasch
Plain Style, p. 56

The Chicago Manual of Style devotes one page to the period, one page to the semicolon, two pages to the colon, and wholly eleven pages to the comma. Even the otherwise mysterious question mark gets little more than a page, and its louder cousin, the exclamation point, doesn't get even one.

This week, Research as a Second Language will be devoted to the comma, which "indicates the smallests break in sentence structure" (CMS 6.18). In standard Danish prose, use of the comma follows a hard and fast grammatical rule (which, like many Danes, I will one day learn as well). In English, however, "Effective use of the comma involves good judgment" (ibid.).

Let's start with how the comma can be used to set off appositives. "An appositive noun is one that immediately follows another noun or noun phrase in order to define or further identify it" (CMS 5.29). It's a good place to start because it involves the important distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive parts of sentences. The latter are "omittable", as the CMS (6.43) puts it, while the former are "esssential".

Stewart Clegg's first book, Power, Rule, and Domination, was published in 1975.

Here's an example of the non-restrictive appositive noun phrase. To see that it is non-restrictive, you need merely to notice that the phrase "Stewart Clegg's first book" and the title "Power, Rule, and Domination" refer to the same thing. The latter does not restrict the meaning of the former, i.e., it does not make the sentence refer more precisely to something in the world.

Stewart Clegg's first book was published in 1975.

Power, Rule, and Domination was published in 1975.

These two sentences are just as true as the first, though they are, of course, less informative. But consider the following sentence.

Stewart Clegg's book, Power, Rule, and Domination, was published in 1975. (Wrong)

I have simply removed the adjective "first" before the noun "book". The sentence as it stands now is, in fact, misleading. It suggests that Clegg has written only one book. I could have replaced "first" with "only" to emphasize this (but it would, of course, only have made it directly false).

Here we can see what the commas are doing. The right way to write this sentence is:

Stewart Clegg's book Power, Rule, and Domination was published in 1975.

The word "book" is actually unnecessary here. But the point is that the title is essential to the meaning of the sentence; it restricts the meaning of the phrase "Stewart's Clegg's book", which could otherwise refer to other books.

Stewart Clegg's book was published in 1975.

This sentence would only really work in a paragraph that had already distinguished Clegg's contribution from someone else's.

Well, that's all I have time for this morning. Tomorrow, while jogging, I will try to come up with a pithy rule of thumb for setting commas. That's actually a pretty daunting task. See you then.