Ethics of Plagiarism for Writers: Understanding the Importance of Originality

By Kimberly


If you are a writer, whether you are a novelist, journalist, or academic, you have probably heard of plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else’s words, ideas, or images without giving them proper credit. Not only is it ethically wrong, but it can also have serious legal consequences.

Writers should be honest and ethical, including avoiding plagiarism. Plagiarism is stealing someone’s intellectual property without proper attribution, which can harm a writer’s reputation and lead to legal action. It’s important to understand the ethical implications of plagiarism and avoid it.

There are different types of plagiarism, including intentional and unintentional plagiarism. We’ll cover both. We will also explore the consequences of plagiarism, both in terms of legal action and damage to your reputation. Finally, we will provide tips and strategies for avoiding plagiarism in your writing, including how to cite sources and use plagiarism detection tools properly. By the end of this article, you will better understand plagiarism’s ethics and how to ensure that your writing is always original and ethical.

An image of A young woman journalist, and writer who works remotely from home using a laptop online.

Understanding Plagiarism

As a writer, it is important to understand the ethics of plagiarism. Plagiarism is using someone else’s work without giving them proper credit.

This can include copying and pasting text from the internet or another source, using images without permission or attribution, or even self-plagiarism (using your previously published work without proper citation).


Plagiarism can take many forms, but it all boils down to using someone else’s work as your own. This can include:

  • Copying and pasting text from the internet, books, or other sources without proper citation.
  • Using images, videos, or other media without permission or attribution.
  • Submitting someone else’s work as your own.
  • Self-plagiarism is using your own previously published work without proper citation.

In short, plagiarism is stealing someone else’s work (or intellectual property) and trying to say it’s yours.

Types of Plagiarism

Plagiarism can range from unintentional (forgetting to include a source in a bibliography) to intentional (buying a paper online, using another writer’s ideas as your own to make your work sound smarter).

There are several types of plagiarism that you should be aware of:

  • Direct plagiarism is copying someone else’s work word-for-word without giving proper credit.
  • Mosaic plagiarism: This is when you take bits and pieces of someone else’s work and use them in your own without proper citation.
  • Accidental plagiarism is when you unintentionally use someone else’s work without proper citation. It’s important to double-check your sources and ensure you’re giving proper credit.
  • Self-plagiarism is when you use your previously published work without proper citation. Even though it’s your own work, you still need to give proper credit. This can become a bigger issue when rights are involved, such as if you’ve sold the rights of a story to a publisher.

It’s important to understand the different types of plagiarism to avoid them in your work. Always make sure you’re giving proper credit to your sources, and double-check your work to make sure you’re not accidentally plagiarizing.

Remember, plagiarism is not only unethical, it can also have serious consequences for your reputation as a writer.

By understanding what plagiarism is and how to avoid it, you can ensure that you’re always giving proper credit to your sources and producing original work that you can be proud of.

Consequences of Plagiarism

As a writer, you need to be aware of the serious consequences of plagiarism. Plagiarism is a serious offense that can lead to academic and legal repercussions.

In this section, we will discuss the consequences of plagiarism and what you can do to avoid them.

Academic Consequences

Plagiarism can have severe academic consequences when it’s in an academic setting. This is a fairly specific type of scenario, but everyone will experience it when they are in school (whether primary, secondary, or post-secondary school).

If you are caught plagiarizing, you may face the following consequences:

  • A failing grade for the assignment or course
  • Suspension or expulsion from school
  • Damage to your academic reputation
  • Difficulty obtaining future academic or employment opportunities

Additionally, if you plagiarize in a manuscript or previously published work, you risk having your work retracted or being banned from publishing in certain journals or publications.

It’s not worth it. Don’t do it.

Legal Consequences

Plagiarism can also have legal consequences. If you plagiarize someone else’s work, you may face the following legal consequences:

  • Lawsuits for copyright infringement
  • Fines and penalties
  • Damage to your professional reputation
  • Difficulty obtaining future employment opportunities

In some cases, plagiarism can even lead to criminal charges, especially if the plagiarism is done for financial gain or is part of a larger fraud scheme.

It is important to note that there are exceptions to plagiarism, such as when using common knowledge or properly citing sources. However, it is important to always err on the side of caution and properly cite any sources you use in your writing.

If you are accused of plagiarism, seeking legal advice and taking the matter seriously is important. Courts have issued opinions on plagiarism, and it is important to understand the legal implications of your actions.

In some professions, plagiarism can have even more serious consequences, leading to loss of license and damage to your professional reputation.

Plagiarism is a serious offense with severe academic and legal consequences. Always properly cite your sources and seek legal advice if you are accused of plagiarism.

An image of a young stylish writer working on a typewriter.

Avoiding Plagiarism

To avoid plagiarism, cite your sources, paraphrase correctly, and reference images. You should also be aware of bias and respect the original author’s intentions. By following these guidelines, you can ensure that your work is original and ethical.

Citing Sources

Citing sources is an essential part of avoiding plagiarism. When you use someone else’s words, ideas, or data, you need to give them credit. You can do this by using in-text citations or footnotes.

The citation should include the author’s name, the title of the work, the publication date, and the page number. If you are using a website, you should include the URL.

In my writing, I like to include cited material and use either MLA or APA formatting, depending on the article type. I tend to skew heavily toward the APA format because I’m a science geek. But the MLA-style citations are also awesome.

I like to include a list of cited and referenced materials at the end of articles, when and where it’s been used. If I don’t have to use anyone else’s work to write the article? I don’t necessarily have to use a “references cited” section.


Paraphrasing is another way to avoid plagiarism. When paraphrasing, you put someone else’s ideas into your own words. However, you still need to give them credit.

You can do this by using in-text citations or footnotes. When paraphrasing, you should be careful not to change the original text’s meaning.

If you are unsure whether you have paraphrased correctly, don’t paraphrase. Use a direct quote.

Referencing Images

Images are also subject to copyright and, therefore, plagiarism.

  • If you use an image you did not create, you need permission to use it, which means you may need to contact and credit the original author. Once you have written permission to use the image, you may still need to credit the creator. You can do this by including a caption or a footnote. Also, include the source of the image, which may include the URL.
  • Getting a license to use an image using a service such as Envato Elements or Deposit Photos can be far easier. They handle the licensing and have standards for referencing the images, which oftentimes isn’t required.

Don’t use an image if you don’t have permission to use it. Period.

My policy is to use pictures I’ve taken (and therefore own) or stock images I’ve licensed.

“This is the way,” as all of the Mandalorians say.

Be Aware of Bias

To avoid plagiarism, you should also be aware of bias. Bias can occur when you use sources that are not objective or impartial. It is essential to use sources that are reliable and unbiased. You should also be aware of the original author’s intentions.

If the original author did not intend for their work to be used in a certain way, you should respect their wishes.


You may be tempted to reuse your previously published work as a writer, but doing so can be considered self-plagiarism. Self-plagiarism means reusing work you have already published or submitted for a class.

It can involve resubmitting an entire manuscript or copying and paraphrasing passages from your previous work. Recycling previously collected data or publishing multiple articles about the same research can also be considered self-plagiarism.

  • In the content creator and SEO world, this tends to be called “keyword cannibalism,” as you’re writing multiple articles that compete for attention in search engine results.
  • In the writing world, self-plagiarism leads to reader fatigue because the readers already saw this – and they will catch on no matter how sneaky you think you’re being.

Self-plagiarism is a serious ethical issue because it can mislead readers and undermine the integrity of the publication process. When you submit a manuscript, you are expected to provide original work that has not been previously published.

Duplicate publication is another form of self-plagiarism that occurs when you submit the same manuscript to multiple publishers or journals. This is also a serious ethical issue because it can lead to duplicate publications that waste the resources of publishers and readers.

Deep Magic, for whom I used to be a reader) had explicit rules stating they don’t accept submissions if they’ve already been submitted elsewhere (or you plan to submit them elsewhere). Other publications have similar policies.

Be sure you know the policy of any publication you’re submitting to – but the “one story getting subbed at a time to one publication” is a solid rule of thumb. Once the story has been rejected, then you can submit it elsewhere. Or if it gets approved, then great! you don’t have to stress about copyright issues.

To avoid self-plagiarism, you should always cite your previously published work when you reuse it. You should also be transparent about the reuse of your own work by disclosing it to the publisher or journal. If you want to reuse your own work, you should seek permission from the publisher or journal and follow their guidelines for proper citation.

Self-plagiarism is an ethical issue that can undermine the integrity of the publication process. To avoid self-plagiarism, properly cite your previously published work and be transparent about its reuse. If you are unsure whether reusing your own work constitutes self-plagiarism, seek guidance from the publisher or journal.

An image of a young man in a shirt and suspenders writing something on a notepad while sitting at his working place.

Ethical Considerations

As a writer, it is important to consider the ethical implications of your work, especially when it comes to plagiarism. Here are some ethical considerations to keep in mind:


When you write something, you are claiming authorship of that work. This means you are taking credit for the ideas and words you have written. It is important to be honest about your authorship and to give credit where credit is due.

If you use someone else’s work in your writing, you must properly cite your sources. This means including a reference to the original work in your writing and providing a full citation in your bibliography or reference list. Failure to properly cite your sources can lead to accusations of plagiarism.

Journal Editor

If you submit your work to a journal editor, it is important to follow their guidelines for ethical writing. Journal editors ensure that their published work is original and meets ethical standards. This includes checking for plagiarism and ensuring that all sources are properly cited.

As a writer, you can help the journal editor by being transparent about your work. This means disclosing any conflicts of interest or funding sources that may have influenced your writing. It also means being honest about previous publications or submissions of the same work.

Overall, ethical considerations are an important part of writing. By being honest about your authorship and following the guidelines of journal editors, you can ensure that your work is original and meets ethical standards.

Key Takeaways

As a writer, it is crucial to maintain ethical writing practices and avoid plagiarism. By doing so, you guarantee that your work is original and unique. Plagiarism can have serious consequences, including legal action, damage to your reputation, and loss of credibility.

Plagiarism is a major issue in the writing world, and it is vital to avoid it.

  • One way to do this is by using reliable sources and properly citing them.
  • Wikipedia can be a great starting point for research, but it should not be used as a primary source.

Social media has made detecting and exposing plagiarism easier, and it is essential to be cautious when sharing or reposting content. Always credit the original author and obtain permission before using their work.

By following ethical writing practices and avoiding plagiarism, you can build a strong reputation as a writer and gain your readers’ trust. Remember that your writing reflects your character and integrity, so take pride in creating original and authentic content.

Note: some of this article was assisted with an AI content generator. I didn’t do a full copy-and-paste, though, because then I’d be plagiarizing an artificial intelligence, and I don’t want them mad at me in case of a robot uprising. But did I use the outline it suggested?

In the words of Phineas Flynn-Fletcher, “Yes, yes, I did.” Although technically, he says, “Yes, yes, I am.” So it’s a poor direct quote that I’ve manhandled, but at least I still gave credit.

Mic drop.

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