At some point in your blogging career, you may want to quote or link to something you found online. It is very important that when you use something that you did not write, you provide proper credit. This applies to anything created by another person: writing, pictures, videos, music, anything.
Usually, the way you give credit in a blog post is less formal than the way you give credit in an academic paper. Don’t worry, I’m not going to teach you how to write a bibliographic citation. I will show some of the most common ways for bloggers to credit another’s work.
But, first, why is this a big deal? Isn’t information you can access for free available for you to use any way you want? The short answer is, no. The long answer is below.
Copyright Law Protects Created Material
Even though you can access information online for free, that information is still protected by copyright. As soon as you create something, it is protected by copyright. This includes writings, pictures, music, and videos.
Copyright law is intended to protect everyone, including you. You can’t legally use other’s material in such a way that makes people think it is your work. Other people can’t legally take your work and make people think that it is their work, either.
The Library of Congress has detailed information on copyright, but they also have simplified information in the form of a cartoon.
Using Other’s Material Without Giving Credit it Unfair
Have you ever worked hard on a project at work only to have your co-worker take all the credit so that you were unable to convince the boss that you did most of the work? If you use someone else’s words, pictures, or other work without making it clear that he is the one who created it, you are acting like that co-worker. Just as you want people to recognize the results of all your hard work, so do others want the credit for what they do.
Using Other’s Work Without Giving Credit is Stealing and Lying
If you use words, pictures, or other work without giving credit to the person who created it, you are stealing and lying. You are stealing the recognition they would receive for their creation and lying by presenting the material in such a way that makes your readers think you created the work. Also, you may be stealing money from the original creator.
Some people earn money by how many people read their blog or website. The information on the website is free for the public, but the author may be making money from the ads on the site. If you use this author’s work on your website and do not provide credit, people have no reason to click on the original author’s website. The less people who visit that website, the less money the author will make.
I Want to Be Legal, Fair, and Honest. How Do I Give Credit Where Credit is Due?
There are a few ways to give proper credit in a blog post. Which way you choose depends on how you present the information you are sharing. Following are examples to demonstrate the most common ways of giving credit in a blog post.
Link to the Site
Let’s say you read something on a website and want to write a blog post that answers a question raised there. Do not copy the entire (or large portions of the) original article and publish it in your own blog post. Even if you credit the original author, you are not legally allowed to copy the entire post without permission from the original author. Instead, say what you found interesting, include a link to the relevant post, and continue writing your own post. The example is below.
Recently, I read an article on Already Pretty that talked about dressing down work clothes. I found this article useful because I enjoy wearing pencil skirts and button-up shirts, but work in a business casual environment. Sal makes good suggestions, but the article and comments got me thinking about how I incorporate my personal style into the casual atmosphere at work. Today’s blog post is about some things I do to dress down my more formal work wear.
Points to notice:
- There is a link to the specific article. This is the most important thing. You are not republishing the article. You are directing your readers to the original.
- There is a link to the website in general. This is optional, but appreciated. This extra link is helpful in case the first link is broken, because readers can still find the article. Also, by naming and linking to the whole website, you are letting people know in advance where you found the article. In some cases, people might want to wait until they are in private to go to a particular website. If you only link to the article, it is harder for them to know what kind of website they are being sent to.
- The author of the original article is identified by name. This is optional because people will find out who the author is when they read the article, but it is a nice thing to do and enforces your image as a writer who gives proper credit.
Include a Short Quote from the Article and Include a Link
Sometimes, you may want to include a short quote (one or two sentences) in order to demonstrate a point. When you do this, make sure that you set apart the other author’s work with quote marks. The example is below.
Alison Green from Ask a Manager says in answer to a question on how to deal with odiferous co-workers, “And on the boundaries issues, you need to be straightforward there too.” Well, I agree, but my problem is that I don’t know how to distinguish between being straightforward and being rude.
Points to notice:
- The author is mentioned by name. It is more important to do this here than in the first example. The reason is because here the author’s specific words are being quoted and you want your reader to know who is saying these quoted words.
- There is a link to the website. This is helpful for the reasons explained in Example 1.
- There is a link to the specific article. The reasons for this are in the first example.
- Alison’s words are set apart from my words by quote marks. This makes it very clear what I wrote and what Alison wrote.
Include a Longer Short Quote and Set it Apart With a Block Quote
On occasion, you may need to include a longer quote. Instead of surrounding this quote with quotation marks, use a block quote format. Block quotes are generally used if the quote is four lines or longer when it appears in your post. Use block quotes sparingly. It is much better to publish the one most important thing and then send your readers to the original article for the rest. In some cases, however, it may be necessary to provide a longer quote. The example is below.
Déjà Pseu of Une Femme d’un Certain Age managed to combine Star Trek and fashion:
So what does a policy of non-interference in alien civilizations have to do with style? Not much, except that it was the first and most important rule from which all others flowed. Many of us have our own Prime Directive when it comes to our conscious and unconscious style rules.
Her post got me to thinking about what my own style Prime Directive might be and if it gets interpreted to fit the situation as the Prime Directive is Star Trek seems to be.
Points to notice:
- The author is named. Whether or not this is a person’s real name is unimportant. Use the name that they use in connection with the article.
- There is a link to the website.
- The quoted material is clearly set apart from what I wrote. Block quotes should form a “block” of text with greater left and right margins than the other text in your post. WordPress has a button with quotation marks on it that automatically formats block quotes.
- There is a link to the article.
The most important thing is to give credit where credit is due and to make certain that your readers can easily differentiate between what you wrote and what the other person wrote.
The first two methods are preferable to using block quotes, but I wanted you to have an example of the third option in case you should need it. Either of the first two methods are fine; choose the one that best fits your needs for that particular post. Again, even if you give credit, you are not legally allowed to copy the entire post without permission from the original author.
This may seem to be alot of work if you aren’t used to it, but if you make giving proper credit a habit, it will come to feel natural.
Remember, just because something is freely accessed that does not mean you can use it however you want without giving credit. Give credit any time you use someone else’s work.