Last summer, Peter and I noticed that one of our blogging friends seemed to be posting things that were lifted from another source. They were word for word what was on another website; we considered that a serious breach of ethics.

fountain pen
Phil Hilfiker via Compfight

I finally had the opportunity to ask him about these posts, telling him that I had noticed that they were the exact same thing is on some other websites. He told me that he had purchased some PLR (private label rights) articles and was using them because he didn’t have time to write anymore but wanted to keep new content on his website. I pointed out that it didn’t look right, and that when people usually use PLR articles that the idea was to modify them so that they would become one’s personal articles.

As some of you know I now offer writing and blog writing services as part of my business. With one of my blogging clients, I knew his industry really well, so I didn’t have to do much research with it. With most of the other writing that I’ve been doing, there has been a fair amount of research. What you start to find out is that as you read on the subject enough times, you start to get the feeling that you know it fairly well and can pretty much write totally original content more than half of the time without having to do any research at all.

But there are those times when you have to do some kind of research. On most topics, what I will do is think of what I want to write about, pull up four or five resources, read them all, and then start writing. If the majority of the resources quoted exact same information, then I would use that exact same information, but will alter the words if it’s possible.

Sometimes it’s not; if you have a list of things that have to go in a particular order, you’re pretty much stuck using what’s there. For instance, I once wrote an article regarding something called “revenue codes“, which is a health care term. I listed a whole bunch of numbers and descriptions, and no matter what resource I might have had to look at, those numbers and descriptions would have been the exact same everywhere.

I think when it comes to writing there has to be some kind of ethical standard that a writer has to have. It doesn’t do a writer any good to copy blocks of words from someone else’s articles without giving them attribution. One of the gripes I’ve written about often on this blog is seeing people on other blogs saying the same thing over and over that they got from another blog.

True, there may not be many new ways to say “create great content” when talking about ways to improve one’s blog or to encourage visitors to stop by, but that’s part of the essence of what writing is supposed to be about, that being creativity. I’m sure that someone else has probably written about ethical writing in the past, but I’m also betting that no one is ever written about it in quite the same way that I’m writing about it right now. That’s the kind of thing that makes us all unique.

There’s also the question of rewriting articles. Many people believe that’s unethical, because they’re taking one source and basically saying the exact same thing that someone else said only in a different way. I have kind of a different take on that one also. I have rewritten my own stuff from time to time, and as I am the original source for that information, I have no qualms about doing that rewrite.

I also think that it depends on what you’re writing as to whether doing a rewrite of something is ethical or not. For instance, if you’re writing something about a new story you read, and you can only find that information in one place, I don’t think there’s anything unethical in writing that in a different way; after all, that’s news, and it’s what all the major newspapers around the country do when they get those newsfeeds from places such as the AP and Reuters. I do that on my finance blog all the time, although I also didn’t comment on those stories which make them unique.

What are your thoughts on ethical writing? Do you think I’m too strict, too lenient, or something else? Inquiring minds want to know. 🙂
 

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