I had just finished writing a blog post for my old employer’s website, and printed it out to get my manager’s feedback. He told me to take out a part where I had referred to a source because it would make the post sound more authoritative.
This made me feel uncomfortable. Maybe this is due to years of academic writing experience, but I’ve always thought that when you write something that involves a lot of research you should mention your sources. To me, this is simple politeness.
Truth and time
My manager’s concern was for the reader of the blog post, who is someone working in business looking for writing advice. He said the reader should see the blog post as an authoritative source of information, and hyperlinking to or mentioning a source undermines the post’s authority.
I understood my manager’s concern, but I thought the reader would appreciate the honesty if the blog post nodded to where the idea it was discussing came from.
You could argue that the reader doesn’t have time to read the blog post and its source material, but including a link to a source doesn’t mean they’ll click on it. The reader is in complete control of what they read.
Where ideas come from
Another concern I had with not mentioning my sources is being accused of plagiarism. If the blog post is talking about a specific idea, wouldn’t it be unethical to not mention where this idea came from?
I may not be copying and pasting content from my source word for word, which definitely would be plagiarism if I then dubbed it as my own work, but shouldn’t the person who came up with the idea and inspired me to write about it be credited?
I would think they’d appreciate the fact their ideas are being talked about and shared, and by mentioning or linking to their work there’s a chance the reader would learn more about this. And once again, it would be polite.
My ultimate problem
My ultimate problem with sounding like an authority, then, is being rude. The reader may not think it, but knowing I’ve been inspired by something and not mentioning my source seems dishonest.