Don’t Plagiarize!

(I thought I would try to come up with a catchier headline for this article, but I think the message is pretty clear.)

I found myself in a professional predicament recently. I was hired to write some historical blog posts for a lovely design company here in Chicago. They sent over some company documents for my reference I got down to work.

As I did a little cross-referencing, I found myself reading content in their paperwork that seemed off; it read like it was written in a very different voice for a very different audience. Sure enough, a quick Google showed that the materials my client had shared were plagiarized from a very reputable reference website! I was dumbfounded. Maybe I’m naïve, or I’ve just been lucky, but this was the first time I have come across materials “written” by another professional (their previous writer) that were actually stolen.

Suddenly I was in the uncomfortable position of having to email the client with the unpleasant news that their public documentation contained plagiarized content. Fortunately, she was polite and professional about it, pulling the plagiarized material immediately. She also asked that I keep an eye out through the rest of the paperwork for additional problems.

I found page after page after page…

In the Classroom

In my past life, I was a teacher. And nothing made me crazier than when my students plagiarized. In one infamous incident, one of my students cut-and-pasted a Wikipedia page as their paper, complete with internal links! (Don’t get me started on Wikipedia.)

I genuinely assumed that, like oversleeping and calculus, plagiarism was something that faded into your past and was forgotten once you graduated and joined “the real world.” Such intellectual theft is rife with professional and legal liabilities, to say nothing of the laziness it projects. Who still does this?

Okay, politicians do… see here, here, and here. But copywriters? C’mon, people. A copywriter’s job is to write words to make other people happy; to let your creativity flow! We’re so lucky to be able to write for a living. Don’t ruin it for the rest of us by plagiarizing.

Why Plagiarism is Bad

(And why it pains me to even have to write this out…)

Plagiarism is Illegal

Let’s start with the basics. Stealing is illegal. Plagiarism is stealing. Ipso facto…

Plagiarism is Rude

Someone put a lot of time and effort into crafting the right words for their product, that website, or that article. They poured their blood, sweat, and tears into analyzing that data. They worked all night on that awesome infographic. It is just plain rude to sneak in and snatch it for yourself.

Plagiarism is Lazy

Plagiarism makes you look lazy because you are being lazy. You may be the most productive, efficient person in all other aspects of your life, but in that last second, when you copy someone else’s work, you are just plain lazy. That is a reputation that will catch up with you.

Instead, do the work yourself; dive deeper; learn more. You will be a much more interesting person, first of all. Your own words are always better than someone else’s.

You be you, as the saying goes. And you do not want to be lazy.

Plagiarism is Unprofessional

You want a reputation for being a consummate professional because you are!

Whether you are writing a book or you are developing webcontent, you have a business to run and people to impress. There is a crispness to fresh, new words that authentically channel who you are and what you embody. That other material from someone else’s site or article was written for a different time and place. Leave it there.

Your words are your window to the world. Make them your own, and everything is possible.

Everyone Has a Story

Do you have a plagiarism story? Where have you been stunned to discover someone else’s words? Share below. Plagiarism is one of those things that really needs a little light for disinfectant. Plus, it feels a little therapeutic to share.

If you still feel the need to plagiarize, email me and I’ll talk you out of it 😉

 

 

A Powerful About Page

One of the most important pages on your website is the About page. There is so much pressure to craft the perfect words that say who you are, but in a way that connects powerfully to your potential reader or client. You are bringing yourself to the table, aligning yourself with your ideas and product, and hoping people like you!

It’s Sally Field in a million clicks a day!

What most people get stuck on, however, is that a powerful About Page is like a performance. You are the star of a one-night-only show, and the spotlights have just come up. In that moment, you might trust yourself to improv, or you might turn to a copywriter like me, who will listen to your story, learn your audience, and write you a beautiful, memorable, clickable speech.

Here are a few tips to make your About Page the best ever.

We already know it’s About You

You shouldn’t actually call it an “About Me” or “About Us” or “About Caroline” page. The average Googler has found you already and just wants to know more. The second word is redundant.

Be direct. Simplify. This is good for your title, your url, and your reader, who has 8 seconds before they move on (yes, humans on the web have a shorter attention span than goldfish!). Keep it short and sweet.

Connect to your business

An About page connects you to your base, so it is essential before you start to write that you know exactly what about you is the most relevant to your audience. Yes, I know it is your passion project, your blood, sweat, and tears. It’s all you. But some part of you connects in the most personal way to your reader. Tap into that, relate to where they are in their lives, and you will have a powerful About statement.

For example, being a writer is not where I connect best with my clients, even though I do write. Instead, my long, wayward road to being a Book Coach is where I find I have the best connection. I have traveled widely, tried many jobs, and worked across many fields, and my authors tend to have taken the long road as well. We have a kinship that leads to trust and success.

Get personal

Unless you have pre-existing readership or client base, people want to know a little bit about the non-work you. Just don’t get carried away. No one wants to read every restaurant recommendation you have and every favorite vacation spot you love. Save those for your blog. And no one really cares about names, either. But “inquiring minds want to know” what you are like when you are not hard at work.

Pick a few key details that sum up your day-to-day and give it a sentence or two. How many kids or pets do you have? Do you love where you live? What’s your favorite book, hobby, travel destination? Ironically, this is your very brief moment to talk about yourself on your About page.

Remember, from your Landing page to your Blog to your About page, the customer always comes first. Read every sentence (or have someone read it for you) with your audience in mind, not you, the writer. Let your work shine through you, not About You.

If you need any other tips or suggestions, just ask. If you have any other ideas, leave a comment below or tweet me @thewritemalloy

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