Recently I set out to do some freelance writing. I wanted to do it because (a) writing is my hobby and I am good at it and (b) to make some money.
So you join up with a freelancing site and register your profile, and one of the first things that you notice is that there are a lot of people registered as writers, from countries where English is not the native language.
So, naturally, I see an advantage. I put into my profile that English is my native language and I have been writing it for a long time. Not too long into my newfound career I picked up a couple of jobs to write on various subjects such as doing business in foreign couintries and an article on renewable energy, which I assume was part of a much larger work, and I was being given the job to write as a sub-contractor.
No problems there.
So, off I go. I wrote the introduction free-hand (about 2,500 words). Completely unique content. Then for the technical material, clearly I consulted country guides and technical guides. This is where it begins to come unstuck, because obviously, when researching, you are going to have to use technical phrases, and if you use someone else's work you attribute it. Personally, I like to use detailed footnotes, but my employer wanted end-notes - no problem.
Then I discovered something that I have never needed before, nor come across in my writiing life - PLAGIARISM CHECKERS - tons of them!
I have been writing legal, business, trade and technical papers, opinions and advices for well over forty years, virtually on a daily basis and this has opened my eyes.
It seems that there is a thriving industry out there of people who will cheat on your behalf, and there is an equally thriving nest of software developers who develop anti-cheating software such as TURNITIN, PC CHECKER, GRAMMARLY and many more, both free and paid versions.
Sites such as
An absolute eye-opener!
I work through a legitimate freelancing platform. You post your qualifications, take some tests to raise your rankings and all communications is done via their chat bot.
However, and naively at first, I learned the hard way how not to get paid. So called "employers" find you on the freelancing site and immediately ask you to communicate outside of the freelance platform on Skype or What's App. Basically, if you fall for that you are likely to do a whole lot of work for no pay. Of course, there is always the sweeterner that "...we have a great team of writers and there will be plenty of ongoing work..". Don't fall for it!
I was astounded by the number of people who contacted me to write assignments, and moot papers and basically to cheat for them. I cottoned on to that pretty quickly.
Anyway, I digress!
So, even though I am prepared to edit some of the material and do a bit of para-phrasing now and then, my unique content is just that - UNIQUE!- and my borrowed content is that which I borrow for the purposes of "fair dealing" and I ensure that I properly atttribute it and do not use huge slabs of other peoples' text, but that was not good enough for my employer, so I decided to invest in some paid Anti-Plagiarism software and I was horrified because my employer (from the Indian continent) would not accept anything other than 100% unique content!, despite the fact that I tried to explain that when doing research that is not the case.
Imagine writing a legal opinion and having to quote great slabs of law from cases and statutes only to have your employer tell you that it is plagiarism!! Ludicrous, and even more so when they are simply not understanding the concepts and asking for continual re-writes.
Even my professionalism backed up at that point, and I reminded my employer that the project was worth pennies and I was losing money. So, after running it through 3 different plagiarism checkers, I gave up and submitted copy that was apparently 10% plagiarism.
The irony is that many of the original phrases that I had written free-hand (straight out of my visceral armoury) were classed as "duplicate content"- imagine that - writing something like "solar energy is produced by the heat of the sun"- not particularly earth shattering, but good old plagiarism checker wants me to know that it is not UNIQUE - as if I didn't already know that.
So, I politely thanked my employer and reminded her that I no longer wanted to write for an audience of ONE - by that I mean Mr Google and his algorithms. I prefer to write for people who appreciate my work.
Now think about the logic behind this. If you take logical or authoritative writing and rewrite it so that no plagiarism checker can pick up any duplication at all, there is a very good chance that you have bastardised or "dumbed down" the work so much that it is very likely useless and, ironically, if you are going to take someone else's words and twist them into "uniqueness", then how morally honest is that anyway?
So that was a worthwhile experience and I will keep doing it, but not for people who only want me to write for their Plagiarism checker.
It's a new world out there, folks and the internet never ceases to fascinate me. You can still teach this old dog new tricks (attributed to Anon)!
Postscript: I ran this essay, which was written totally in freehand without reference to any source, through one of my plagiarism checkers and achieved a score of 100% , I am happy to say.from Duplichecker.... however, then I ran it through the dreaded PC X Checker and it turns out that my original thoughts are the same as 5 other peoples: