Sometimes a situation will suit a well known author's quote and I do like expressions. Someone joked that I had no shame in paraphrasing. Is this poor form and if so why?

  • 1
    With or without credit?
    – Xanne
    Aug 22, 2019 at 0:37
  • 2
    This question belongs on another site in the Stack Exchange network: Writers.
    – Edwin Ashworth
    Aug 22, 2019 at 14:35
  • Uh, since this is dialogue it does not matter one bit if you like it or consider it poor form. You are not saying anything and you are not paraphrasing anything, the character is. It's their line not yours. If Sherlock Holmes decides to say "veni, vidi, vici", that's his problem, and not Sir Arthur Conan Doyle's.
    – RegDwight
    Aug 22, 2019 at 14:54
  • 2
    @RegDwight - Your point is good but the OP doesn't mention dialogue. A character quoting a well known work is fine, effective if it suits that character. But lifting, I mean paraphrasing, another author's work as if it were the writer's own voice comes close to (is) plagiarism.
    – rebusB
    Aug 22, 2019 at 15:19
  • 2
    @rebusB I humbly suggest that you read the question's title.
    – RegDwight
    Aug 22, 2019 at 17:14

2 Answers 2


If someone recognized it as a paraphrase, I’d call it a literary allusion. It’s OK to borrow from an author if both you and the listener know it’s not your original thought.

If I don't hear a coworker come in, I can say she came in "on little cat’s feet," and we both know I’m borrowing from a poem by Carl Sandburg (not all my coworkers are so literary).

If you are pretending it’s your own idea, that would be phony, and if the listener knows it’s not your own thought, you will appear pretentious.


In my mind it's not plagiarism because it's known not to be mine. The poor form question was about it somehow demonstrating poor linguistic ability.

  • 1
    Are you the OP? Is this intended to be an edit to the question rather than an answer? You should sign up for a full account and ask the mods to merge them so you can claim back ownership of this question.
    – F1Krazy
    Aug 23, 2019 at 6:03
  • 1
    Hi Oliver, please let us know if you need some help with your accounts. This should be a comment on your question and not an answer though. You can comment on your own questions even with low rep points. But not if it's a separate account with low rep. We're happy to help you out here. Aug 23, 2019 at 6:08
  • 2
    So if you are indeed the same Oliver as the original poster of this question, and you'd like your accounts merged (which I highly recommend), please click on "contact" here or at the bottom of any Writing.SE page. Under "What can we help you with?" choose the option "I need to merge user profiles." Fill out the rest of the form and the SE staff will take it from there. Aug 23, 2019 at 6:41

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy