Blogging & Plagiarism : What It Is And How To Avoid It

A ctrl and c key, symbolising plagiarism on a keyboard

Bloggers work hard to do what we do, we work hard to be original and to create something new that you will want to read.

Plagiarism: the process or practice of using another person’s ideas or work and pretending that it is your own.

Cambridge Dictionary

Not so long ago, I lay awake and I was mindful of some idea-stealing that had gone on from my blog. I don’t mind other authors addressing the same topics as me, but when their work reads painfully like my own, it becomes a little more difficult to bear. Bothered by the notion, I messaged my dear real-life-and-blogger friend Bill at Rope, Roses & Red. Because of his sound advice, he is the reason and inspiration behind my decision to help you avoid plagiarism on your blog.

Friends, copying someone is never cool, and when I find even more so that it’s my own ideas (and in some sense, even my own identity) that’s being replicated, it really doesn’t sit well. At best, it’s annoying, and at worst, it’s frankly pretty damn creepy. Not only, but if you copy other creators too often, you run the risk of your blog becoming blacklisted by search engines. Blacklisting means Google is less likely to promote you as a reputable source!

Bloggers work hard to do what we do, we work hard to be original and unique and create something new that you will want to read. I have a list on my phone of ideas and topics that I want to write about and that I don’t believe have been covered before. Maybe they have been, but certainly not recently, or that I’ve seen. With everything that I write about, it’s because it resonates with me in some way. It is something that I’ve seen or done and I want to share my experiences and knowledge with you.

Sometimes bloggers write about the same thing, and that’s fine. Maybe there is a local or global headline that needs to be discussed and a few (hundreds of thousands, actually) bloggers will have their take on it, that happens. Maybe twenty different fashion bloggers will all review the same beauty product and have very different opinions on it, that happens too. That’s not plagiarism, that’s just a hot topic.

Plagiarism has many forms, but we’ll discuss briefly the differences between blatant and covert plagiarism, which are the main two you’ll probably come across in blogging. I’ll also share some examples that I know of, to help you to avoid them in the future.

In my above example, I mentioned the follower who started using lines I’d written and experiences that read remarkably like my own, as though she’d experienced them too. Something just smelled off to me. These were topics that I’d written about and advice and guidance that I’d shared, along with my own experiences that I’d used as examples. I felt completely violated! She was taking my work, adding her own image and calling my hours of hard graft as her own. It doesn’t matter what form it takes, if you copy someone’s creations or ideas and claim it as your own, that is blatant plagiarism.

In my second example, we’ll talk about my neighbour who copies line works, but then tweaks them, colours them in differently to the original artist and sells them as his own. Given he hasn’t asked the original artists permission, then this classes as covert plagiarism. It doesn’t matter that he’s adapting them or colouring them in differently, the line work is still not his to recreate. He could add a fictional character over part of the image to avoid any problems, but even that doesn’t matter if most of the artwork is the same. Even if you copy bits of somebody else’s work and mix them with other bits of other artworks to create your own original, you still run the risk of covert plagiarism. The only time it is okay to copy an artists’ work is if you are practising a technique they’ve used.

How To Avoid Plagiarism On Your Blog

1. Ask For Permission

Most bloggers are really decent people and won’t mind at all if you want to create content that was inspired by them. Be sure to ask them, thank them, and give them some form of credit for the inspiration. Seen something on my blog you would like to use? Email me!

2. Quote & Reference

Did something they say resonate perfectly with you? Quote them in your own piece, and give them the proper credit that they deserve. It’s fine to do this, as long as you don’t forget the credit!

3. Linkback

Linkbacks are links to the original post (the one that inspired you) and are frighteningly easy to do. Highlight text> Link> Enter URL> Apply. Job done and plagiarism averted. Simple!

4. Hold Off For A While

You’ve seen a blog post that really inspired you and you’d love to write something similar. The problem is, another blogger just posted about that topic and it’ll look a bit creepy if you do. Leave it in your drafts for a while and give it some time while you write about something else instead, just make sure it’s still your own original work when you do decide to upload it.

5. Create Your Own Content

This one should go without saying, but be you, create you and create your own story and content. Nobody has walked in your shoes and you haven’t walked in theirs, so why tell their story? Share your story instead!

Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.

Oscar Wilde

It’s fine to be similar to another blogger, and it’s fine to he inspired by them. Eventually, all bloggers, no matter how much they try, will start to ooze something that looks frighteningly similar to somebody else and most bloggers know and understand that. The important thing is not to try and resist that inevitable sense of familiarity, but to find to that little thing that makes you uniquely you.

Until next time,

Stay safe & have fun,

Helen xx

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