Saturday, April 19, 2008

WORD: Opal Mehta and WriTeen Plagiarism

by Gabrielle Linnell

Wikipedia has a succint (and hopefully accurate) summary of Kaavya Visnawanathan and her plagiarism charges over here I'm annoyed at what happened, but especially because of the effects on the WriTeen community. WriTeens are always suspected of plagiarism more than adults are. This means we have to fight harder to prove the originality of our work. What Kaavya did didn't help the stereotype.

Here are three tips for making sure her headaches never become yours.

1. Always check for proper citations. In nonfiction, make sure that you keep great records of where you get information. It's usually better to have a little too much citation than not enough. Few magazines use MLA, but most require a bibliography. Questions about a particular editor's citation desires? ASK!

2. Watch out for "osmosis plagiarism." Kaavya originally used that defense. If you're writing a short story about a yellow dog in a blue world, don't go reading a collection of short stories about yellow dogs in blue worlds. Be aware of what you read and how it affects what you write.

3. Write every word. The simplest way to protect yourself from plagiarism accusations is to write every word of every piece you write. If it's yours, truly yours, you will have nothing to worry about.

Gabrielle Linnell has written for FACES, Cobblestone, Library Sparks, ByLine, Once Upon a Time, Stories for Children and other magazines.

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