I thought I would try to come up with a catchier headline for this article, but I think the message is pretty clear. Don’t plagiarize, people!

I found myself in a predicament the other day. I was doing some copywriting for a fabulous new client who sent over some related company documents for my reference. I read through them and then got to work on my piece.

As I did a little cross-referencing and googling, I found myself reading a website that seemed awfully familiar. Sure enough, a quick check showed that the materials my client had sent over were plagiarized from a very reputable website! I was dumbfounded. Maybe I’m naive, or I’ve just been lucky, but this is the first time I have come across materials “written” by another professional (their previous copywriter) that were actually stolen.

Suddenly I was in the uncomfortable position of having to email the client with the unpleasant news that their public document contained plagiarized content. My client was polite and professional about it, pulling the plagiarized material immediately. They also asked that I keep an eye out through the rest of the document in question 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 that 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 research 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 known as lazy.

Plagiarism is Unprofessional

You want a reputation for being a consummate professional. Because you are!

Whether you are writing your own materials or you are a copywriter hired to develop content for a client, you have a business to run and clients to impress. There is a crispness to fresh, new copy that authentically channels who you are and what your business embodies. That other material from someone else’s site or paper was written for a different time and place. Leave it there.

Your words, especially on your website and in your business materials, are your introduction to the world. Make them your own, and they will take you far.

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 😉

And if you need some fresh, new, professional copy and content for your small business, contact me, and we’ll get started today.