Dawn Colclasure's Blog

Author and poet Dawn Colclasure

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Plagiarism paranoia

Sometimes, I think I really should be careful about the types of articles I choose to read while also reading other things online.

Plagiarism is a scary thing. It haunts every writer living and breathing on this planet. We take measures to ensure protection of our work. Steps to avoid our work being plagiarized or copyrights being violated. But, really, there's only so much we can do.

The article I read this morning, "Dude, You Stole My Article," just goes to show how work can be plagiarized, often without us writers being aware. Here is the link: http://www.slate.com/id/2196810/pagenum/all/

While reading that article, I was also reading about a certain writer who has done Very Bad Things to other writers. Namely, betraying their trust. The more I read, the more I got the impression that this writer is up to shady dealings. Said writer has promised an interview with a certain literary agent, one I interviewed back in 2004. After reading Jody Rosen's piece and seeing that information all in the same sitting, I became scared. Paranoid. Nervous.

Of course, I'm not going to accuse said writer of lifting another writer's work for the sake of saving face (though I imagine it has been done?). I'm not going to suspect that out of all the interviews done with this agent, this writer would plagiarize or otherwise lift material from mine. But, all of a sudden, I wanted to hide my own piece, hoping it doesn't get plagiarized. Or that it hasn't been, already.

That's what the fear of plagiarism does to us at times. It can make us paranoid and suspect people we don't even know. After reading Rosen's piece, even with a writer like MW carrying around a title like "Staff Writer" -- a title endowed with respect and seemingly acknowledged honestty -- all I can say is, careful who you trust.

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  • At 6:01 PM , Blogger colbymarshall said...

    I know what you mean about it being such a scary thing...I always get nervous when I start to do researched bits just for the sheer fact that sometimes wording gets stuck in your mind. I check and double check to make sure I didn't do a no-no without meaning to!

  • At 10:16 PM , Blogger Dawn Wilson said...

    Colby, thank you for pointing this kind of thing out. It's unfortunate that subconscious plagiarism has cost writers and authors book deals or a reputation. I've done the same thing with double checking and even catching passages where I imitated another writer's style. It's so important to analyze what we write just to be sure we aren't committing subconscious plagiarism.


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