If you’re a writer who is wondering, how is writing impacted by ethics, you are not alone. Many studies have been done on the role of ethics in the writing process, and it means more than just trying to avoid plagiarism and making sure you use only facts. However, there are many different types of writing, so the role that ethics play in these types of writing may differ from one type to another.
The Relationship Between Ethics and Writing
Without realizing it, writers can put into words something that is offensive or unethical. These often have to do with offensive or racial language that the writer, sometimes, doesn’t even realize is coming across that way. To avoid these pitfalls, pay attention to the following tips:
- Avoid sexist wording. When necessary, replace the word “man” with “human being.” Be conscious of this temptation when writing anything.
- If you use a racial title, capitalize it; for example, “Black.”
- Never make generalizations about any category of people, including ethnic minorities and genders.
- Eliminate any terms that have negative connotations; for example, “welfare mother.”
- Don’t use racial terms that are overly inclusive. Instead of using “Asian,” use Chinese, Japanese, and so on.
- Watch the use of terms such as “boy” and “girl”. When the characters are over 18, these terms can be patronizing or even insulting.
- If you write about people with physical handicaps, describe the disability after the description of the person. For example, use “the woman who is deaf” instead of “the deaf woman.”
- Every time you write about racial groups, make sure the descriptions are both accurate and politically correct.
Essentially, these types of mistakes can be avoided if you’re extremely mindful of everything you’re putting down on paper. Being aware of what to do and what not to do is the first step in making sure your writing will not upset or offend anyone.
Ethics and Technical Writing
Technical writing involves writing on subjects with a technical edge, including medical, scientific, and even educational material. Because a lot of this type of writing involves facts, technical writing has to consist of carefully worded descriptions to portray those facts. There are also some concerns that technical writers have with some of this information, including:
- Discovering information that may not support the goal of the document. Some writers will choose not to include this information in the document, but that action is considered unethical.
- Presenting visual information in an inappropriate manner. You can change the look of a pie chart, for example, by the angle in which it is presented. Try to overcome this temptation and present it in a factual manner.
- Suppressing information that is relevant. All information discovered during your research should be included in the document, even if it contradicts with what you’re trying to accomplish.
Eliminating certain bits of information, showing visual descriptions in an unethical way, and downplaying data that don’t support what the paper is trying to show are some of the ways to write a technical document unethically. Eliminating data is the same as suppressing it, and both of these actions are lies.
If you’ve ever asked yourself, how is writing impacted by ethics, the good news is that there are methods to guide you in the right direction. When it comes to technical writing, for example, the rules or methods to consider include:
- The ethics set in place by the company that hired you to write the article
- The ethics already in existence in your profession
- The ethics you abide by yourself
In the end, only you can decide what to do when faced with a controversial situation; however, as in life, honesty is always the best policy when you’re writing and consider ethics to be important to that writing.
In fact, ethical principles that should always be followed when you are a technical writer include:
Ethics and Student Writing
Many students, when applying to college or graduate school, fill out applications that require them to sign it at the end and testify that everything on the application is true. Thanks to the Internet, however, student cheating is now at an all-time high. What are some of the ways for a student to cheat and participate in unethical behavior? Below are a few of them.
- Plagiarism. This problem is as old as time itself, but it still exists on today’s college campuses. Some of the rules regarding plagiarism can be a little confusing, but it behooves all students to learn everything they can about this dangerous practice.
- Exaggerations, Lies, and “Creative Truths”. There are a lot of ways for students to think they are presenting the truth, but being creative about it. Fortunately, most of these methods are very transparent and can be easily recognized by school personnel.
On a related topic, many students are now using online companies that assist with the editing and even the writing process, especially when it comes to term papers, theses, and so on. Each company offers a different service, but many of them come very close to plagiarism because of the information included in the papers that they sell to the students.
If you’re a student and you’re trying to get help with a school paper and have decided to use one of these sites, it is wise to keep in mind the following:
- Editing sites: if the company actually edits and does nothing else, that is one thing. However, many of these companies rewrite some of the information that is in the document, which means they become co-writers at that point. This is unethical.
- Sites that sell school papers: the unethical side of this is easy to understand. However, if the student purchases the paper and uses some of the ideas to write an entirely new paper, this is likely acceptable.
- Sites that let you upload papers: this is where intent comes in. If the student uploads a paper to their website, this is likely negligent, but not necessarily unethical. However, if the student submits the paper with their own name on it and changes nothing within the document, it could very well be plagiarism.
So, what is the student to do in these situations? Simple. Students should study and learn what plagiarism is and isn’t, familiarize themselves with the exact services offered by these online companies, and most importantly, turn and run in the other direction if they have any negative gut reactions or bad feelings about what they’re about to do.
Ethics and General Writing
How is writing impacted by ethics when you’re writing general articles about various topics? There are obviously some do’s and don’ts when you’re in this situation. Many of these have to do with plagiarism, because plagiarizing is always a big no-no. It is unethical, and in many situations illegal, to copy another person’s work, but the laws are sometimes confusing in this area.
First of all, let’s take a look at the main types of plagiarism. These types include:
- Mosaic, or patchwork plagiarism: when people copy and paste different sections of various documents together to create a document that is “new.”
- Direct plagiarism: copying an entire document or large portions of a document without citing its sources.
- Global plagiarism: using words that are not your own; for example, having a friend or family member write the paper and attaching your name to it.
There are other types of plagiarism, as you can even plagiarize yourself, but these are the main types that most people think about when they hear the word “plagiarism.”
Starting at the Beginning: What Are Ethics?
So, how does a writer avoid plagiarism? Below are a few tips that will help.
- Always quote your sources: quote them verbatim, then cite your source immediately afterwards.
- Make sure you include references: these include all of the information necessary to show people you aren’t copying someone else’s work.
- Research what does and doesn’t need to be cited: again, a little research into the subject matter can help, but remember that overciting is always a better practice than underciting.
- Use a computer program that detects plagiarism: software programs exist that can help a lot with detecting plagiarism, saving you a lot of time and worry in the future.
- Never forget your online resources: these, too, have to be credited and cited, so never forget to include that information in your paper.
- Make sure you research everything thoroughly: take your time with this step, and make sure you research everything that you’re unsure about.
- Use paraphrasing when necessary: instead of quoting someone directly, reword and paraphrase the information so that it isn’t plagiarism. You should still cite the original author in this instance.
- Cite ALL sources: even if you’ve just copied a sentence or two from an original author, it is best to cite them.
- Invest yourself in the topic: become familiar enough with the topic you’re writing about that you know when you’re plagiarizing and when you’re not.
- Plan ahead: write an outline before you start writing so that you can prepare ahead of time for any potential problem areas.
- Make sure you include a bibliography: this is yet another way to ensure that you include all details about previously published material.
- Determine if the source is reputable: especially if you’re relying on sources that came from websites, you need to make sure they’re legitimate ones.
To answer the question, how is writing impacted by ethics, you have to first know all about ethics itself. Just what is ethics? Officially, it is a set of moral principles which defines what is good for both individuals and society. It is not the same thing as morals, but rather a set of moral principles that everyone is expected to abide by.
There are also three areas of ethics that most philosophers use when discussing ethical theories. These include:
- Meta-ethics: this looks at the origins and meanings of ethical principles to deal with the nature of moral judgment.
- Applied ethics: this looks at controversial subjects such as animal rights, war, capital punishment, and so on.
- Normative ethics: looks at why certain things are right or wrong and the content of moral judgment.
Just how did ethics come about? Mostly by combining principles from different areas, including different cultures, religions, and philosophies. When it comes to subjects such as animal rights, abortion, and professional conduct, ethics play a big role in determining the “rules.”
Ethics also cover areas such as individual rights and responsibilities, good versus bad moral decisions, how people can live a good life, and right and wrong language. In fact, many professions abide by a code of ethics that is considered a very important part of their job.
Ethics for Writers
If you’re asking yourself, how is writing impacted by ethics, because you’re a writer yourself, don’t be alarmed or nervous. Avoiding the problems mentioned above is a lot easier than you think. A little research, education, and common sense can avoid most of these problems, and you can also do your part by following some of the following tips:
- Keep a written form of your research results. Write down the sources of everything you’re planning to use in your document, so that it can be checked by editors and anyone else before publication.
- Pay attention to the rules for obtaining permission to publish or cite a piece of work. Most publications specify in detail what you have to do to cite their work, and if you’re unsure about the process, get in contact with them and ask them.
- If someone has made independent contributions to your paper, you should consider using that person as a co-writer.
- If you must write a criticism, make sure it is free of direct attacks, professional, and substantive.
Naturally, these are not the only ethical concerns for writers, but if you have any questions or concerns about your particular paper, simply contact the publisher for additional details.
Some Final Thoughts
Writers of all types and genres have to abide by certain rules and laws to avoid plagiarism and make sure all of their citations are proper. It really isn’t that difficult overall, and a little due diligence on your part should take care of the matter.