Online Etiquette MascotEveryone knows that plagiarism is an extremely bad idea and that it is unethical, unfair, and downright abhorrent. It can also get a writer into serious trouble and the content that you write must truly be your own. That is an assumption that everyone makes.

The definition of plagiarism

You may think that plagiarism means that you have taken someone else’s words (in their entirety) and claimed that they are your words by putting yourself as the author of the content. That is certainly one definition of plagiarism. However, the definition of plagiarism also contains levels of subtlety that you may not even have considered. In fact, there are several ways to plagiarize another person’s work and you may not even be aware that you are plagiarizing. It is important to have a really accurate idea about what plagiarism is so that you can determine if you are inadvertently plagiarizing. If you are aware of what you are doing, you can correct it.

Verbatim plagiarizing: Verbatim plagiarizing is when you copy someone else’s words, letter for letter, without attributing the words to that person.

Partial plagiarizing: This is when you take someone else’s content and use part of it (or “massage” the text) and use some of your own words, which you have interwoven into the content. You will embellish your content with someone else’s words because yours are falling short (in your estimation).

Changing some of the content: The reality of this is that if any of the words in your content are the same as the words in the other person’s content, you have plagiarized. That, of course, is unacceptable. All of your words need to be your words.

Using the concepts: If you take someone else’s content and use any part of it closely, you are plagiarizing. That means that you are not allowed to closely match any part of what that person has written, including the actual structure of the article. It must all be original and unique.

The many downsides to plagiarism

When you write content, you are sharing something that is unique to you and to your business and brand. If you plagiarize, you are robbing yourself of that uniqueness. As you must clearly understand, as you are establishing relationships with your online connections, you are building trustworthiness, credibility, and you are positioning yourself as a subject matter expert. If you plagiarize, you are weakening all of those attributes. It simply is not worth the price that you have to pay. How other people perceive you online (and in person) is critical to the success of your business. If you present yourself as someone whom those people cannot trust, they will not want to do business with you and you will be finished before you even begin. Remember that you can use other people’s words as long as you attribute the words to that person. Another obstacle when it comes to plagiarism is content scraping. Content scraping is basically automatic, non-human plagiarism. People who use scraped content most likely did not get permission to do so from the people who actually wrote the original content.


Plagiarism is wrong on any level. You can take concepts that have been inspired by other writers but you must make sure that the words that you use in your content are all your own. You must present unique, exciting, compelling, and original content online that other people will be able to learn from. From a technological perspective, there are many plagiarism software products that can detect plagiarism. It is a good idea to research those to make sure that your content is in the clear. If you have inadvertently plagiarized or if someone else has plagiarized from you, either scenario must be dealt with and dealt with quickly.

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