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If you haven't a kind word to say against someone, don't say it at all. "Mr Goody Goody two-shoes" (but in my crazy travel book about my European adventures HERE,THERE and EVERYWHERE, you'll find out why I only had one!). Hard sometimes, when you are reporting facts, as you saw them and want to market your work sometimes; because controversy always sells... like bad news headlines sell newspapers.
Most of above information is based on pure common-sense (what's that?) and using your discernment. However, many writers don't have an abundance of aforementioned qualities in making judgements.
A word (or two or three) of my advice... In writing follow following (sounds "funny" that!) creeds:
When in doubt about what course to take (not English III), just ask yourself this: If you were author, would you like someone else copying your work, or saying 'those things' about you.
Use judicious judgement (note alliteration) and when in doubt, rather err on side of caution.
Even if you have been badly hurt by someone in past, don't be tempted to retaliate and take vengeance for "the sordid past" through your words. Everyone has made mistakes they may regret in life, so think best of people. At least try!
Enough moralising and back to my original topic. A final few words to conclude on subjects of plagiarism and defamation. Always write with ABSOLUTE HONESTY (from your particular perspective), in utmost GOOD FAITH and INTEGRITY... and as proverb wisely advises:
Do unto others , as you would have them do unto you."
Then you CAN'T GO WRONG in your writing.
Phew! Finished this lesson in a hurry this morning, sitting out in hot NZ sun. My business partner wanted it by 1 pm, because it's a long weekend. Another glorious day in Godzone. What paradise.
What a life as a writer!
Craig Lock is an author of numerous books and the creator of the ORIGINAL online creative writing course. http://www.nzenterprise.com/writer/creative.html