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Dear MMB,

Dear Keen Minds at Mormon Mommy Blogs,

Probably one of my most popular posts on my blog was not my idea. I read a similar post on another blog and thought, "What a cool idea! I'm totally going to do that!" So I wrote a post that had the same general idea but in my own words.

My question is this: Is this still considered plagiarism?



MomBabe says:

It's interesting that you bring this up now. Just this last week, New York Times columnist Maureen Dowd admitted to plagiarizing the words of blogger, Joshua Marshall.

In our own little corner of the blogosphere, CJane has had people take her words, so has Sue.

When it comes down to actual plagiarism, I think a lot depends on the INTENT to which you copy the idea.

In CJane's case, the woman was using those words as her own, AND she was making money off of those words. She had even been asked to contribute to a book, all based on words and stories that she lifted from someone else.

In your case, you saw an open letter, thought it was cute, and modified it to suit your needs. And while you got the idea from someone else, that was all you took. The idea. Much like painting your house a certain color, or grouping your pictures a certain way. While it inspired you, and you wanted the same sort of tone, you didn't take phrases verbatim. You didn't even write to the same people. The only thing that was the same is the formatting you used. And if anyone gets in trouble for plagiarizing the formatting of a letter, then we're all screwed, because letters have been being written for centuries. This very post is in the same format. Is it plagiarised? Most definitely and vehemently NOT.

Obviously, reading blogs will inspire you to tell a particular story, or to tell that story a particular way. As long as it is YOUR WORDS, you're okay. Everyone has a muse.

So, in answer to your question, Is this still considered plagiarism? I vote no. Not in this case.

Motherboard says:

That's a tricky question. Webster defines plagiarism as:
  • a piece of writing that has been copied from someone else and is presented as being your own work
  • the act of plagiarizing; taking someone's words or ideas as if they were your own
Wikipedia defines it: "use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work." and "It is important to reiterate that plagiarism is not the mere copying of text, but the presentation of another's ideas as one's own, regardless of the specific words or constructs used to express that idea."

With that said, I think that there will be, on varying levels, people posting similar ideas on their blogs with their own personal words. I have done it. However, I try to reference where I saw it first. If it wasn't my sole idea, then I try to give credit to the one who came up with the idea and then proceed on my own. (even if I can't remember where I read it. I say, "I saw on some blog I was reading blah blah blah..." that is an effort to credit the source, even if you can't remember where you saw it.) Reading other peoples blogs will, of course, trigger things to write about on your own blog. That's why blogging is so great... but I do think its important to credit where the idea came from-- especially if you are directly copying the idea, just using your own words.

MMB Readers: Is there a blogging question you've always had? Something that you just don't understand? Email mormonmommyblogs @ with "Blogging Question" in the subject line. Thanks!

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