What is Plagiarism?

Plagiarism: a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work.

It's hard making something from nothing, it's true. And sometimes we admire other people's creations so much we can't help but wish we had come up with it. Songs, novels, paintings. But, as all of us know, it's never okay to actually go ahead with that wish.

But what, exactly, qualifies as plagiarism?

Blatantly using someone else's ideas. For instance, if you write a story about a girl named Stella who falls in love with a man-like creature that sparkles in the sun... you're going to run into problems. There are so many stories in the world that it's hard to come up with something that hasn't been used before, but it can be done. And it's so rewarding knowing that this thing you've worked on is completely your own. There is fanfiction, I realize, but I don't believe fanfiction has ever been published, and it should always be acknowledged what piece the fanfiction is stemming from.

"Borrowing" a term or phrase. There are exceptions, of course, like those sayings we all use. Flash in a pan, or dark as midnight. That kind of thing. But if you actually open a book and use a sentence you see on a page, that's outright stealing.

Claiming a work that isn't yours. Self-explanatory, I think.

It IS okay to use facts. And if you do use part of someone else's work for a research paper or anything else and give credit where it's due, this is fine, as well.

This post sounds like a short little sermon, doesn't it? And I'm pretty sure we've all heard it before, are aware of the definition of plagiarism. But it could always bear repeating. Because plagarism hurts everyone in the long run.