Speechwriters: Attribute like crazy when in doubt

Tactics to avoid inadvertent plagiarism.

Tactics to avoid inadvertent plagiarism

Lippert blamed the inadvertent borrowing on his rush to meet a deadline, and insisted that Harper was not aware of the borrowing of copy.

Blatant theft isn’t something speechwriters worry about, since it’s so beyond the pale. But a sloppy cut-and-paste job, a late-night gathering of quotes for a speech and a rushed deadline can all make it painfully easy to let an unattributed piece of text slip into a speech.

When you’re pulling together a speech at midnight on a coast-to-coast flight, or a crisis situation leaves you with just a few hours to draft a critical address, how do you safeguard against inadvertent borrowing of someone else’s text?

“We read so much, often in such a limited amount of time, that it’s hard to remember which idea came from where, which ideas might be original and where that great sound bite that’s been rattling around in your head for a week came from,” says Fletcher Dean, director of executive communications for Dow Chemical.

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