What is plagiarism and how can it be avoided?

How would you feel if you were scrolling through the World Wide Web and found yourself reading your own words published by someone else but as their own? I know I wouldn’t be too happy with someone taking all the credit for my hard work. Luckily there are rules in place to avoid such situations. However, as writers, this goes both ways and plagiarism is something that should always be in the back of our minds whenever tapping out a new piece.

What is plagiarism?

It is important to understand what plagiarism is in order for us to avoid doing it. Put simply, plagiarism is copying someone else’s words without acknowledging them. For a more concise description, we can take a look at the oxford dictionary, which states that it’s:

“The practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own.”

FUN FACT:  The word plagiarism comes from the Latin word ‘plagiarius’ used in the 17th century meaning kidnapper.

Today, with people posting on multiple platforms such as social media, blogs, company websites along with various other places, it is easy to accidentally fall into the plagiarism trap. A simple copy and paste can seem harmless but can, in fact, hold serious consequences for both you and your company. Remember, it’s theft and therefore it’s illegal.

Plagiarism comes in many different shapes and sizes. To give you an idea of a couple, see the list below:

  • Using a quote from someone and not using a quotation mark or referencing.
  • Copying a photo or video without the correct referencing.

Why it’s prudent to avoid plagiarising work

As professional writers, we aim to be recognised for our individuality and personal views, which in turn builds a good reputation among our readers. Being found to plagiarise work can damage your rapport and cause your work and possibly future work to lose its legitimacy.

If you are writing for a company and are seen to ‘borrow’ content from others without their permission, it could diminish trust in the company as well as the effectiveness of your work. By weakening trust in your company, people could start to doubt product claims, website content or even the legitimacy of any guarantees you offer. This could threaten the very existence of your company. Not to mention the original writer and what the repercussions could be on them by using their work. You are inadvertently taking the credit and possibly earnings away from them.

How to avoid plagiarism

Paraphrase

As I previously said, writers tend to do a lot of research on a topic before executing their work and often find useful information within other texts. This is when paraphrasing comes in useful. Read the text, digest it and pull out the points that you want to use. Then comes the most important part. You MUST put it into your own words; so put the article to one side and think about what you want to say.

  • Avoid using similar sentence formations.
  • Avoid using more than two similar words in a row.

If you can’t paraphrase correctly, you will need to quote it.

Quotation marks

Quoting is a popular method of acknowledging someone’s work within your writing. It is imperative that you use the exact words used by the author and try to keep it short. Don’t write out a paragraph and put quotation marks around it – it will not be well received.

Referencing

By including a reference in your work, you can easily avoid plagiarism. Remember that depending on what you are writing, there could be a different expectation of how this is done correctly, however, it always tends to include the author, date of publication, title, and source. Always look for formatting guidelines.

Use a plagiarism checker

It is surprisingly easy to plagiarise someone’s work without realising. Good writers tend to do a lot of research prior to writing an article and naturally, you will retain some pieces of information better than others. While writing you may accidentally structure your sentence in the same way while speaking about a particular topic. It is for this reason I always like to run my work through at least two of the many online plagiarism checkers that are at our disposal.  For instance, you could try these free websites:

If you are ever in doubt remember, it’s better to take a couple of minutes to switch up the sentence than being branded an author who plagiarises work. Don’t have time? This is where Topcontent can step in and lend a hand. Check out our website to see the range of writing services that we offer.