Sunday, November 11, 2012

Temptation to Copy or Plagarize

Even deciding to write on this topic in a way I'm plagiarizing because I chose to write this a few days after reading another person's blog post on this topic.


Avoiding copying, plagiarizing breaking copyright laws, and so on, is hard, mostly because there are a lot of topics that we all tend to study and are knowledgeable about.  Writing thoughts on the same topic isn't plagiarism, but writing almost word-for-work is.
Many of us sign up for the same blogs, read similar books, newspapers, magazine articles, etc.  The information we learn sticks in our mind.  We are a sharing generation and want to share what we have learned.

It can be hard not to copy when tackling a topic or offering tips you've read elsewhere that are so valuable you want to pass them on to your readers. 

Let's say another article teaches me having a pet can ease lonely feelings.  That isn't just someone's idea, it is a pretty proven fact.  Also, forcing yourself to get out of the house to meet new people is also a good solution.  If I include these fact in an article on relieving loneliness, does that make me a plagiarist?  It's complicated.


When we "live" in similar circles, we tend to learn the same things, talk the same language, so to speak.

In my writing for a certain website, there are many requests for certain topics.  Yes, I often rehash the same topics other writers have.  Most of us share commonly known information.  The question is, when does it become plagiarism?

Let's say, for instance, I've learned a few tips on building a platform, developing a social media network or pitching a small business.  Some of the tools I might include in my article are the same tools many others are teaching clients in courses or writing about.


I've read many articles that I think I could have written.  When another writes in a similar style to me, or shares similar information to what I have written on in the past, I begin to wonder if I've been copied.  The truth is, there are many of us that think alike and that's what it is about in many cases.

Yes, I've been copyright violated.  It makes me mad when I discover that.  I've also sold articles on use licenses and that means the buyer can use my piece where he wants.  I have to be careful not to incorrectly judge a piece--it may have been fairly paid for.


It's so easy to cut and paste and spin an article around or to use another person's information in your own ebook.  It is, however, unethical and, in some cases, illegal.

In order to make your writing genuine:

  1.  If you cut and paste, make a note that it is verbatim from someone else.  If you journal ideas, make a note in the column which write author, book and page # it came from. If you don't you may incorrectly think it's a piece you started writing, use it and get caught.
  2. Type from your heart.  Don't just list facts.  Think about why you're writing what you are and what you want your reader to learn from it.  Then include only the most important points and make it sound like they came from you (even though you may not be writing in first person).
  3. Put your own spin on it.  Try to pull something out that's different about the topic.  Use different examples, look at it from another viewpoint, etc.
Stay true to form, ethical, fair and do your best.  Forgive others as you hope they will forgive you if you slip up.

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