They say that imitation is the highest form of flattery, but as we talk about in this week’s episode, sometimes imitation goes a little too far. Plagiarism is a huge problem thanks to a coupling of laziness and the Internet.
When I was a teacher, the most frustrating kind of plagiarism was the kind I couldn’t prove. Now, let me just say, it was amusingly easy to spot copy-pasters in my classroom. I was a French teacher, and when students in Level One used verb tenses from AP French Lit, well, it wasn’t too hard to miss.
It didn’t just annoy me because it was stealing. It annoyed me because I saw it as one of the ultimate cop-outs. Every time I saw someone cheat like that on an essay or homework assignment, all I could hear was that student saying, “I don’t care enough about myself or society to actually do any work.”
You can argue with me all you want. I’ve heard every excuse there is:
“It was too hard.”
“I didn’t understand the assignment.”
“But you told us to use the dictionary!”
And my all-time favorite:
“I thought that [section] was there for me to use.”
No matter which way you spin it, plagiarism is cheating and lazy. In school it tends to only hurt the student – the more they copy, the less they understand, the worse their test scores. In real life, it hurts the original thinker by taking away their rightful recognition and, sometimes, hard-earned money. And as a writer and person who gets excited about every penny she earns, the idea of stealing from another writer makes me just as mad as grading papers and seeing plagiarism.
On a positive note, plagiarism is avoidable. It’s easy – be creative, work hard on your own craft, and make sure that if you do ever borrow tropes, they look completely different once you’re done with them. Seek a novel approach, not someone else’s novel!
This post was brought to you by Michelle. She doesn’t really like Halloween, but if you invite her to a costume party she will (almost always) show up as Wonder Woman.