Writing & Blogging

Are You Plagiarizing on Your Blog? How You Might Be + Why It’s Bad

I can’t believe that plagiarism is a thing that we still have to deal with in 2019, but here we are because people are terrible! I had a situation a few months ago where I actually had to threaten legal action because they straight-up copied my posts. So I thought that I would break down what plagiarism is, including some examples of how you might be plagiarizing, and how to avoid plagiarizing.

Boston lifestyle blogger Kate the (Almost) Great breaks down different ways you might be plagiarizing on your blog, why you should avoid it, and how to fix it.

What Plagiarism Is + Why It’s Bad

According to Dictionary.com, plagiarism is “an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author” (x). There are a variety of ways to plagiarize, which I’ll get into here, as well as how to avoid plagiarizing. But what you need to know is that there’s more than just copying and pasting someone else’s work into your posts.

I’ve written about this before, but it has come to the front of my mind again because someone stole my content for their site in October/November. (Or at least it came to my attention then.) Basically, they copied whole posts, including the images I made for those posts. This is especially important to know because Pinterest is my biggest source of traffic and they used my images – optimized to get the most traffic possible – to get traffic to their site, their post that was actually my post. And at the very end of that post, they linked back to my site, but they didn’t have my permission to reproduce my content. That was plagiarism/copyright infringement.

Which brings me to why plagiarism is wrong. I mean, first of all, it’s morally wrong to use other people’s content and work for your own personal game. You are stealing. And when it comes to blogs and websites, there’s also a legal component: you might be violating copyright, which has legal repercussions. When this site copied my posts, I contacted them and threatened legal action, such as a cease and desist.

You should also know, should you still be inclined to plagiarize, that you can lose your reputation among your community if it comes out that you plagiarized. And as a blogger, your reputation is so important.

How You Might Be Plagiarizing

Using their exact words – This is hopefully the most obvious example of plagiarism, but you can’t write the exact words someone else wrote without giving them the credit. But, on the other hand, you can’t copy an entire post word-for-word, even if you give the author credit. That becomes copying someone’s content instead of doing your own work. It’s taking advantage of someone else’s hard work to get page views, and it also, again, could be a copyright violation.

Rephrasing their words without giving them credit – A lesser known aspect of plagiarism is saying what someone else said but in a slightly different way, like changing the words but still using the same thought. You’re still saying what the original source says; if you don’t disclose that it’s someone else’s idea and concept, then you’re essentially claiming it as your own. And that’s plagiarism.

Being specifically inspired – This makes things a little trickier. Overall, the right thing is to say whose post or blog inspired you. (Also, if you link to their blog and post on social media tagging them, they’re more likely to share your post!) Let’s go back to the definition of plagiarism, which says that plagiarism is “an act or instance of using or closely imitating the language and thoughts of another author without authorization and the representation of that author’s work as one’s own, as by not crediting the original author” (Dictionary.com – emphasis mine). So if you write a blog post inspired by someone else’s and it closely imitates the thoughts of that blogger and you’re not building off of it, there’s a problem. Again, the key is to give someone credit. Write a blog post about how another blogger wrote an amazing post and what your thoughts are about that post and link back to them. But don’t spend your post just saying what they said. If you do that, you’re plagiarizing (see point number 2).

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How To Avoid Plagiarizing

Using quotation marks and naming the source – As you saw earlier in this post, quotation marks are the way to go. It’s blogging, so you don’t need to write in MLA or APA format, but make it clear that the source is where that phrasing comes from. For example, using quotation marks can be seen in the following sentence: “Put exact words between quotation marks,” the blogger said (in her post here). Then you should include a link to the post in those parentheses. My preferred method is to do an x within parentheses and link the x to the original source. But, like I said earlier, keep in mind that you can’t have a post that is entirely someone else’s content, even if you give them credit. Use it to strengthen your argument – such as including statistics or anecdotes – but have your own argument.

Linking to the original source – If you’re not using exact words, then you don’t need quotation marks. But you still need to include a link to the post or website, and you definitely should explain who said it. Again, if you do not do this, you are basically claiming their ideas as your own. You can do essentially what I described above by linking to the original source, such as at the end of a sentence. Make sure you differentiate between your content/ideas and someone else’s so it’s clear that you’re not passing off their ideas as your own; it can be harder to do this when you’re not using quotations, but it’s still relatively easy.

Say that you were inspired – Say, point blank, that you were inspired by a post or blogger and include a link or two. Your post should be your own unique ideas. If your point is to share someone else’s ideas, just link to the post in social media or something. Otherwise, you’re plagiarizing. MORE

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