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