A man walks into jewelry store… and no, this isn’t the opening line to a joke.
Anyway, a man walks into a jewelry store. He looks around, and sees all the finest jewelry the jeweler has to offer. Purest golds, shiniest silvers, diamonds with the most precise cuts. Then, imagine the man gets ahold of a beautiful ring. He doesn’t acknowledge the jeweler. He doesn’t pay the cost of the ring. He just walks out.
Most would call this man a thief. Truth is, many of us are just as guilty as this jewelry thief. But, we’re stealing something much more priceless than a material item such as an expensive ring. We’re stealing other people’s words.
How do we do this? Plagiarism. Plagiarism is basically the act of taking words we didn’t say/write, and passing them off as our own. Could you be found guilty of doing this with your Facebook status? Your Twitter posts? Your blogs? Your preaching outlines?
In school, if you write an essay, and plagiarize any portion of your essay, you fail. Why? Because it’s stealing. It’s a lack of integrity. If our educational institutes are recognizing this, and opposing this act of thievery, shouldn’t our churches? Really, how much more our churches?
Is Plagiarism That Bad?
Let’s review our story about the jewelry thief:
1. “…the man gets ahold of a beautiful ring, and walks off with it.”
We receive revelation not only for ourselves, but so that we can dispense that revelation to others. Our lives are impacted so that we can impact others. So, the man was intended to take this ring from the jeweler, who is specifically there to offer others jewelry.
2. “He doesn’t acknowledge the jeweler.”
This is where things go bad. He has the beautiful ring, but doesn’t acknowledge the jeweler. Many may argue he has not yet stolen the ring because he hasn’t walked out with it, but in his heart, he has. He has taken what belonged to the jeweler without acknowledging whom the ring came from (the jeweler). This is the act of plagiarism. He didn’t give credit where credit was due. Obviously, we’ve read why it’s wrong to steal, but how is it offensive to the person you are stealing the words from (the jeweler)?...
3. “He doesn’t pay the cost of the ring.”
There is a high cost for revelation. You don’t just have amazing things to say, you have to go through many obstacles to find those words. You can only share with others what you have discovered, to the measure you yourself have discovered it. The darker the hopeless trial, the brighter the triumphant hope. Most likely, the people who you listen to, and quote, have something worth saying. They have paid the cost of being able to say what you want to quote. It’s disrespectful to them to take their words and make them your own. It’s not just stealing their words, but almost devaluing them by saying they weren’t worth paying the price they cost the speaker/writer.
4. “He just walks out.”
This is the full act of plagiarism. Making off with something that was originally meant for you to take and enjoy in the first place, but doing it on your own terms, which led to stealing from, and disrespecting, the person you are quoting. No acknowledgment. No price paid. No respectful credit. No respected value.
Avoiding plagiarism is incredibly simple. To avoid plagiarism, here’s all you have to do:
When you post a quote someone said (whether they wrote it or spoke it), you need to properly show they stated the quote by using quotations (“ and “). When you put words between quotation marks, this shows you are acknowledging someone said it. Once you have added your quotations, you also need to add the name of the person whom you are quoting. That can be the name of the person who said it, the book it’s from, the movie you heard it in, or the show you heard it on. When you don’t add quotations and the name of the person you’re quoting, you are making it sound like you came up with the quote (and that’s also plagiarism).
Here’s some examples of what your status/tweets/blogs/etc. should look like if you are quoting someone properly, and not plagiarizing:
“Not all who wander are lost.” – J.R.R. Tolkien
“Everything that touches the water of this river will live.” – Ezekiel 47:9
“Come on down!” – Bob Barker, The Price is Right
It takes very little effort to not plagiarize. It’ll only cost you a few extra characters on Twitter, or the effort to post the name of whom you are quoting as a comment on your Facebook status. Through these simple acts, you can truly honor the person you are quoting by respectfully giving credit where credit is due, and valuing the price they have paid to be able to share the quote you have enjoyed so much.
Gume is a writer from the Rio Grande Valley who's trying to find his place in this world as an author, and have his work be both read and enjoyed. In 2013, he published the first two titles of his book series, "Kingdom of Abel," entitled “A Journey Not Their Own” and "Song of the Silent." His following two titles are scheduled to release in 2014. In addition, Gume hosts Writers Workshops at public schools (grades K - 12) with the goal of empowering young writers and readers to pursue their dreams of becoming printed authors. Students from his past speaking events have walked away confident in their talents, and in themselves as individuals.