How Many Words In A Row Is Plagiarism?

Oftentimes, people will ask “how many words in a row is plagiarism?” You’ll often hear that “five consecutive words” is the standard, although there’s no hard and fast rule that says “but four words is fine.” In terms of use, it’s a gray area because you can still paraphrase another person’s work without actually using

Oftentimes, people will ask “how many words in a row is plagiarism?” You’ll often hear that “five consecutive words” is the standard, although there’s no hard and fast rule that says “but four words is fine.” In terms of use, it’s a gray area because you can still paraphrase another person’s work without actually using their words and have it considered plagiarism.

If a writer is producing content, and suddenly there’s a quote that doesn’t exactly fit the narrative or style, but there’s no citation indicating that it could be from another person, it’s not only jarring to the reader, but it’s also suspicious. Online, it doesn’t take much in-depth research to find the same thoughts expressed in a different way, and it’s for that reason that a hard and fast rule like “five words” is really useless when considered as part of the overall structure of the content.

Plagiarism is complex and the focus is less on what was said and more about how and where it was taken from. In fact, one would argue that it takes longer to take someone else’s idea, put it into your own words, and share it than it does to simply copy their words and acknowledge them as the original author or creator.

How Much Can You Paraphrase and Still Maintain Originality?

This is a conundrum for writers of all types. In academia, it’s incredibly common to take someone else’s ideas and rewrite them using your own language rather than citing the original document (which may sound too scientific or technical) outright. At the same time, sometimes authors express their ideas so clearly and succinctly that you might think “there’s no way possible to rephrase this in a way that’s as good as, or better, than the original.”

Fortunately, The Yale Poorvu Center for Teaching and Learning has some excellent strategies for accurately paraphrasing others’ works without crossing the line into plagiarism. Much of their suggestions center around leveraging someone else’s ideas and transforming them into language that’s more accessible to the modern reader. Oftentimes, when we talk about paraphrasing, we talk about general reordering and rewording of content to the point where it may not be an exact replica of the original, but it’s awfully close.

Proper paraphrasing is as much art as it is science and as such, the writer has to step into the shoes of the original author and consider the angle and situation that led them to create that content, and how it applies to the writer’s own version. Chances are, you won’t need such highly specific, detailed, or technical explanations but you can (and should) still cite the original author as the baseline for your research or argument. You are, after all, standing on the shoulders of giants and then lending your own thoughts and conjecture to a piece that makes it more uniquely your own.

The Content Creator Conundrum

Online, content creators love to share. You want as many eyes as possible on your content and you want people to feel free to share it on social networks and elsewhere on the web. The proliferation of content is what makes the sharing of ideas and resources and examples online so involved and worthwhile. We’re always learning something new and there’s always something interesting to share.

So how do you avoid plagiarism if you’re a blogger, content creator, or a marketing agency working with clients? The most common way for content producers to acknowledge the work of others is to quote them and link back to the original source. In cases where the work they’re citing is behind a landing page that requires an email address, it’s good netiquette to link to said landing page rather than link to the report directly. If it brings the reader a great deal of value, it’s only natural to share an email address for future updates or tips.

Citing News Articles Shared via Social Media or Influencers

This is where things can get a little murky. What if you learned about a new development or interesting statistic through social media, but the data originally came from a news website? Which one do you cite? In this case, it’s good to not only acknowledge the blogger or influencer who shared the piece on social media (where you originally found it), but also the original source.

HubSpot demonstrates this on their own website through the following example:

HubSpot’s example citing a social media post originally taken from a news article

HubSpot also notes a special caveat in that same article, however, and that’s that sometimes, people don’t want their content shared. If that happens, at the very least they’ll notify you with a request to remove it. At the most, it could be their lawyer sending the demand. Should that happen, they note that it’s better to simply honor their request and find other relevant sources or expert quotes.

Ensuring Originality with Every Piece of Content

With all this concern as to how many words are or aren’t plagiarism, where does AI fit into the equation? It can be easy to think that if an AI chatbot like ChatGPT writes your content, you’re in the clear. But remember that ChatGPT is “learning” from the internet and other users. That means it’s being fed existing ideas; it’s not extrapolating anything on its own or making conjectures based on what it is being taught.

That’s where Originality.AI comes in. Designed to detect AI-written content with a high degree of accuracy, Originality works with even the most recent iteration of ChatGPT so you can be certain that the content you’re getting; whether you’re buying websites or working with writers and other content creators, is unique and authoritative.

With prices as low as 0.01 cent per credit (1 credit scans 100 words), you’ll save time and money as well as have a greater degree of confidence that the content you’re working with is authentically human. Try it now and see how much more intuitive and innovative today’s AI can be when it works to help you ensure maximum originality.

Sherice Jacob

Plagiarism Expert Sherice Jacob brings over 20 years of experience to digital marketing as a copywriter and content creator. With a finger on the pulse of AI and its developments, she works extensively with to help businesses and publishers get the best returns from their Content.

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