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.
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.
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