All the buzz today is about how Melania plagiarized Michelle Obama’s speech. I don’t want to touch that issue with a ten-foot pole; however, I thought it was a good time to talk about plagiarizing. It is tempting to find information on the Web and just dump it into your blogs, books, and courses!
You can see that you probably aren’t going to get away with it! You can borrow information and completely rewrite it in your own words, so the ideas are not protected, but when you lift an entire sentence or paragraph from somebody else’s material, you’d best be giving them credit as the source.
I’m not sure where this will go with Melania, but I don’t think you want to be facing a lawsuit. People get a bit cranky when you steal from them. I’m sure there are plenty of people who have gotten away with stealing material. It’s an age-old problem. If you don’t sell your books, no one reads your blog, or no one takes your course, then you are probably safe!
Those are all the reasons that we for not bothering to write, at all. You hear of journalists from time to time who lift an article from another journalist at another paper, which is an incredibly unwise, because someone is going to notice. That’s the same with your writing. You want it to be original! Otherwise, you might as well not spend the time to even make it look like it was yours.
Citing another author is perfectly fine. There are some rules, of course! You need to say where it was published and who wrote it.
In an article published by Name of Publisher (Website)
Author Name wrote, “Their quote.”
There are some incidents on the Web, where you’ll find a great article without an attribution to an author. You can simply say no author was attributed to the article, usually written as:
In a Month, Year article published by Name of Publisher (Website)
without attribution, “The quote.”
In an article pulished on Website.com (http://www.website.com/articles/9215), it stated, “The quotes.”
Make sure you get the Website correct. In most cases, I send people to the exact page by adding parenthesis after the Website and adding the entire URL. However, some websites have such a long name for an article, it’s like five or six directories away from the main page. In some cases, I just cite the Website’s home page. As an example:
In an article published by Name of Website (http://nameofwebsite.com)
Author Name wrote, “Their quote.”
You can usually find an article by searching the site. Dates are good to put on your citation, but if it’s over a year ago and the information is still fresh, I usually leave it out. The exception to that is when you are quoting statistics. These are almost always over a year old. When possible, quote statistics from the original report. Most government reports can be found on the various government Websites.
You may paraphrase something, as long as you cite your source. The information that you are paraphrasing does not go in quotes, because it is not a direct quote. It is usually written as:
Paraphrased information, according to Author Name as published by Name of Publication (Website).
If you are quoting several paragraphs, you can indent the quotes. This often happens, when you are quoting from a book, which is used as an example as follows:
In an article published in Title of Book, Author Name wrote:
“Quoted material should go here. It isn’t italicized. The italics of this example is simply to denote it as an example. More quoted material should go here. Note that there is not a quotation mark at the end of this paragraph.
“However, there is a quotation mark needed at the beginning of this paragraph. More quoted material. More quoted material.
“More quoted material here. More quoted material here. More quoted material here.”
There are style books that you can refer to, depending on what your publisher chooses to use. Often what is currently used by Universities is used by publishers, including some magazines and newspapers.
Whether you get it wrong as far as style, always err on the side of citing your source. You should always have your manuscripts edited. Hopefully, your editor will pick up on any style errors. They will do a better job, if you will tell them what style reference your publisher prefers.
If you are an Indie Published author, pick a style. Let your editor know what style you are using. Make sure all your publications use the same style.
Whatever you do, please don’t lift material without citing your source. Plagiarizing is a serious offence. It ruins your reputation. There is never a good reason for plagiarizing.