Writing Etiquette: You need to know...

By Sharon Brown (Sharon) on January 7, 2011

As Cubits grows, so does our writing experience. Writing online involves legal responsibility. Here are some tips and a bit of advice to help you write the perfect article (and to keep you from stumbling after it's published).

Cubits is almost a year old and it has grown greatly in that single year. At this moment we have:

3,127 members,

545 cubits,

572 articles,

3,467 forums,

45,837 threads,

525,030 posts,

86,299 database entries,

18,024 database images, and

825 database comments.

That’s a lot of writing!

Years from now someone could be reading the words you wrote today. That’s something to think about and it prompted me to write this article.

Most often when writing articles for a website, the writer is provided an editor who in turn provides a list of guidelines for the writer. That’s easy enough to follow.  The editor also  gives direction and quite often makes corrections. But what happens with a site like Cubits?  We are in charge of our own Cubits, and we are responsible for their content but we have no clear guidelines for writers to follow. I'd like to help you with that.2011-01-07/Sharran/964cf1

I’ve written professionally for many years (professionally means that my writings were published and I was paid for them.)  My first published piece was a poem that my high school freshman English teacher entered in a poetry contest sponsored by the old Grit magazine. Remember it?

I don’t even remember the poem I wrote but I do remember it was something about a bright yellow school bus making its way down the gray mountain road. I was even paid when it was published! I think that might have been the first real money I ever earned all by myself. In that instance, my English teacher was my editor, as well as those editors the poem encountered when it reached the desk of Grit magazine.

During my teaching years, it was my curriculum guides that were published, so my creative writing got pushed to the side to make room for years of professional writing. I still had editors, rooms full of editors over the years, and I learned a lot about writing.

It wasn’t until I retired that I went back to my first love: creative writing. I began to write about things I enjoyed, topics others were interested in and subjects I wanted to learn more about. I began writing online. I always had editors, even though by this time I have written so many words they are most often published without very much criticism, constructive or otherwise. But there are no editors on Cubits, I have to make use of my trusted writer friends. No matter how often we've been published, we always need editors. 

That’s enough about me, but I tell you this so you’ll understand that I know a lot about writing.  With so many articles being written on Cubits, I thought it might be a good time to share what I know with you.

Writing on chat threads and writing articles are two entirely different things. Most of the time chat threads are casual, words are written am2011-01-07/Sharran/684141ong friends, and sometimes not a thought is given to spelling or grammar, punctuation or sentence structure. But when you are writing articles, you have a responsibility to the reader.

You want the reader to understand your topic, you want the reader to move over to your side, you want the reader to respond to your words; so you have a responsibility to that reader. You also have a responsibility to yourself. How you write tells a lot about who you are.

Many of you are writing articles for the first time and perhaps you are doing so without guidelines.  Here are three tips that are a must for writers:

 

*A misspelled word is distracting, so is poor sentence structure and rotten grammar. Once the reader sees a misspelled word, he often can’t get beyond it to see the true topic.

 

*Respect the language enough to have spell check or a dictionary close at hand. Both would be excellent!

 

*A thesaurus is necessary as well, otherwise your descriptive words might be limited to several ‘greats’ and a lot of ‘verys’, both are much overused words.

 

The first step for article writing is to choose your topic and that choice is yours. The words you use should be yours, too. However, most of us research our topics because we want to be accurate when providing information. This leads us to another tip that is crucial to article writing:  Cite Your Sites!2011-01-07/Sharran/3ca8b1

It’s your topic, but you want to give the best possible information, so you Google your topic to see what others have to say about it. In order to show that others agree with you or to show what they have to say about your topic, you quote from another site. When you do that, you must cite your source. That means you attribute the work to the other author, and tell where his information can be found.  If anyone questions the accuracy of your article, you have your cited research to back you up.  It also protects your work, because you aren’t claiming another’s words as your own. You are simply suggesting that the readers might want to read what someone else has to say on the same subject.

The same is true of using photos or artwork that you find on the internet. First you must check to see if it is free to use in your article and secondly, you must cite your source again.

I recently talked with Dave Whitinger about ‘Citing the Site’, and this is what he had to say:  “Copying articles and other media without permission or even attribution is a very serious problem.”

The implication is that it could lead to bigger issues since doing so without permission or attribution is considered theft.

According to one university that teaches online writing courses:  

 “Whenever you quote or base your ideas on another person's work, you must document the source you used. Even when you do not quote 2011-01-07/Sharran/00d57bdirectly from another work, if reading that source contributed to the ideas presented in your paper, you must give the authors proper credit.

Citations allow readers to locate and further explore the sources you consulted, show the depth and scope of your research, and give credit to authors for their ideas. Citations provide evidence for your arguments and add credibility to your work by demonstrating that you have sought out and considered a variety of resources. In written academic work, citing sources is standard practice and shows that you are responding to this person, agreeing with that person, and adding something of your own. Think of documenting your sources as providing a trail for your reader to follow to see the research you performed and discover what led you to your original contribution.”

http://www.lib.berkeley.edu/instruct/guides/citations.html

See how it works? I just quoted a segment from another article as a source for this one and credited it by adding the link to the site.  It’s easy enough to do and could save you angst in the end. Those are not my words within the quotes, they are the words of those who are teaching online writing, specifically internet etiquette, better known these days as “Netiquette”. (See how new words are born?)

When I mentioned internet etiquette to Dave, he commented:  “I would say that if you don't steal other peoples' works, that would cover 99% of writing ethics, in my opinion.”

I think he’s right.

Additionally, Dave pointed out that according to the Terms of Service at Cubits.org, all contributors to the site have agreed that they will not post anything that infringes on the intellectual property rights of another party.  Copying information, pictures or other media from a third party without permission is a violation of the Cubits.org terms of service and could result in negative consequences.

All this leads to the most important information I can give you:

Cite your information sources.

Give credit where credit is due.

By following those guidelines, you avoid plagiarism.

Plagiarism means using another's work without giving credit. Plagiarism is not only wrong, it's illegal.


Years from now, your words will still be here. Who will be reading them? Will those readers find clarity in what you write? Will they be informed? Or will they stumble over your misspelled words and rotten grammar? If you are very careful, they will learn from you, they will enjoy your words and they might share them with others by Citing Your Site.

If you are unsure of your work, look for an editor. Ask a friend whom you trust to read what you’ve written. Better yet, ask another writer to take a look at your words. Sometimes it’s hard for us to see our own mistakes. We speak clearly, most everybody understands us. Let’s make it a point to write clearly, too. Just remember, years from now, somebody is going to read your words!

 

Here are some sources to guide you:

The Article Writers Place on Writers and Words Cubit.


The Blue Book of Grammar and Punctuation is excellent.


Search ‘Guide to Article Writing’, you’ll find multiple helpful  sources.

 

Wikimedia Commons is an excellent free photo source, and included with each photo is its attribution information. Here’s the link: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Main_Page

 

Creative writing should be enjoyed by both the writer and the reader.

Happy Writing!

Sharon


All photos in this article came from Wikimedia Commons. Please scroll over each photo for a description. 

Related articles:
online writing, words, writing, writing tips

About Sharon Brown
I am a retired Art and Humanities teacher. I write a lot and I paint a lot and I enjoy gardening here in western Kentucky.

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Comments and discussion:
Subject Thread Starter Last Reply Replies
Great Angist? KAMasud Jul 19, 2013 11:55 PM 5
Sharran, you're a gem. TwinLakesChef Jul 12, 2011 6:57 PM 62
Thank you! HappyJackMom Jan 18, 2011 4:37 PM 1
Thesaurus sallyg Jan 15, 2011 8:38 AM 10
....but, but, but dahlianut Jan 14, 2011 9:16 PM 3
Thank you for an informative and important article Lance Jan 11, 2011 6:38 PM 21
This was a wonderful article Zanymuse Jan 10, 2011 1:05 PM 4
I really enjoyed this article Val Jan 9, 2011 9:11 PM 8
Good article Sharan enidcandles Jan 9, 2011 1:16 AM 2
Well done, Sharon! Trish Jan 9, 2011 1:15 AM 2
Great article, thank you! PollyK Jan 9, 2011 1:13 AM 2
Writing! NEILMUIR1 Jan 9, 2011 1:12 AM 4

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