Plagiarism in Paradise
The title of this post might lead one to believe I’m going to talk about things like writer’s block, or knowing when to stop editing and just publish, or something of that ilk. Instead, I’m going to focus on another aspect of professional writing, plagiarism.
Plagiarism can be overt, like stealing something from a published work, failing to attribute it to the author, and even claiming it as your own. But it can also apply to the words we post online.
Recently, I joined a few entrepreneurial groups on Facebook. Each one asked for an introduction which I happily provided, varying it from group to group. To my surprise, I saw my words under someone else’s name, linked to her own page and website. When I called her on it, she “liked” my comment, then blocked me. An admission of guilt if I ever saw one.
My first reaction was anger: how dare she steal my words when that’s how I make my living? I even reported it to the group administrator after thinking about it for a day. Her response was there was nothing she could do.
Flattery and a Buck-Fifty Will Buy You a Cup of Java
Though I’m still a bit annoyed, as writing a blurb for someone should be a chargeable activity even if this one matched my words about my own business exactly. Then I realized two things: first, this woman isn’t going to go very far as a writer if she can’t even create original copy to describe her own business, and second, imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.
Admittedly, flattery doesn’t buy groceries or make mortgage payments. However, if you take the one drop in the ocean approach, then if one person liked the way the words fit together enough to steal it and claim it for their own, perhaps ten others liked it enough to request additional information or visit the website, right?
Respecting the Hard Work of Others
As professional writers writing for others, our work may or may not appear under our name, but we are still obligated to ensure that no one will come back and sue the publisher of those words for plagiarism. Thus, we’re especially aware of the words we use and how our own voice sounds. Sure, someone can mimic our voice, but as good as they might be, they’re never going to get it exactly right under all circumstances. Eventually, we’d catch them up when they use a word or words together they’d never see from us.
It really is a matter of respect. If you’re one of the many who has difficulty putting words together in a coherent and meaningful way and you really need to sound intelligent, don’t be cheap about it. Hire a writer.
If you’re not good at web design and want a really great website, you hire a web designer don’t you? People are hiring coaches more and more all the time to teach them to be better at running their business, marketing, or even just living their lives. They’re not expected to give away their time and expertise for free.
Real Writers Respect Their Craft and Their Fellow Craftspeople
Yet it’s the writers who are most conscious about respecting the work of other writers, or so I’d like to believe. Unfortunately, there are many who call themselves writers and shouldn’t. (don’t get me started on the grammatical and spelling errors I see from some of them. It’s definitely cringe-worthy!)
In this digital age, the rules of interviewing and marketing from days of yore still apply. They’re just manifested differently. Whereas before, you’d show up dressed appropriately for the interview with a clean copy of your resume, today people judge you by the words you put in an email, the website you launch, or they way you promote yourself on your own business page or professional group.
A Time and a Place For Everything, Even Crappy Writing
OK, admittedly there are people out there who don’t care as long as they can get it cheap. There, then is the market for stealers of well-crafted sentences, eschewers of grammar and disrespecters of fellow crafts-people. Bearing that in mind, we can comfort ourselves with the knowledge that we simply appeal to different markets. Clearly there are those, even today who write for the National Enquirer and those who write for the New York Times. Different breeds for different markets.
When it comes down to the nitty gritty, I’ll always opt for integrity.
Looking for a writer who believes in professionalism and plagiarism-free copy? Click here to visit my Hire Me page. I look forward to helping you look your best.