I had another learning experience last week. I offer a proofreading and copyediting service to students, but obviously I have to be really careful about authorship and plagiarism. Plagiarism is not just “copying”; it also encompasses “passing off someone else’s work as your own”. Now, I’m sure none of my clients would intend to do this. Usually, I’m tweaking spellings, word usage, the occasional sentence re-write – I do everything in “track changes” in Word so the client can see what I suggest and make their own decision about what to change and whether to change it or not. That means they retain their own authorship. People in the know with whom I’ve discussed it are fine with this approach and it just gently helps the meaning come through.
But just sometimes, there’s a piece of work where I feel uncomfortable with the amount I’m suggesting and working on. For “working on”, read “re-writing”. I did always wonder where the line was drawn; well, it turns out that with this one, I *should* go for gut reaction (unlike in my previous post, where I thought I couldn’t do the work, but it turned out I could). If my gut reaction says that I’m crossing the line where your work is concerned, I will – politely – turn it down and return your work to you without corrections. There are probably people who wouldn’t act like that, but I very firmly believe in doing what is right, above doing what is profitable. Work on which someone is given a grade should be their own work.
Of course, if you’re not a student and you want me to re-write your mangled metaphors, your tortured text, your slippery sentences, then bring it on!