Plagiarizing, A Quick Aside

Dear Author:

If your sentence has the exact same structure as that sentence in WaPo, but you just change a word or two … it’s still pretty much plagiarizing. Just sayin’. No, really.


Your Editor

No, really, y’all. This stuff is important. I know you’ve got a lot going on and I know your deadline is looming, but I want you to know two things:

1 Your publisher is paying you for your writing and your ideas.

2 Editors can tell (or suspect) when you’ve helped yourself to someone else’s.

Even if you’ve credited your source—for our example, let’s say the New York Times—for a quote, if you’re going to keep talking about the subject and take another line or two out of quotes, you need to be careful to restate the idea, not just change a word or three. Here’s the sentence in the Times:

Moving is stressful at any age, but for those who have lived in one place for many years, getting rid of things that have accumulated over decades is a large barrier to overcome.

This is the sort of adjustment I’ve seen reused:

Moving is emotional at any age, but for those who have lived at one address for many years, getting rid of items that have accumulated over decades is extremely stressful.

Sure, it’s changed. But I recognize it right away. The sentence structure hasn’t changed. This isn’t rewriting, isn’t putting anything into your own words. It’s just careless—or lazy.

Don’t be that writer.

Here are related articles:

The Book, er, Blog Thief
Be Careful What You Copy and Paste
Legal Issues

Tweet: Plagiarism—don’t be that writer.
Tweet: If you just change a word or two … you’re probably still plagiarizing.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to the brands, products, or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”



Posted in Your Editor Says … | Tagged as: , , | Bookmark the permalink | Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

One Trackback

  1. By Let’s Talk (Again) About Plagiarism on 10 April, 2017 at 10:29 am

    […] I wrote about this last summer, because I’d just been working on a project that engaged in this very thing—“little” things that “nobody will notice”—and it bothered me. It’s not true that no one will notice, because experienced editors do notice. […]