If you have been accused of plagiarism, you are probably worried about how this will affect your education or your job.
Apologizing is usually the first step to remedying a situation like this.
The tips below will help you write a good apology letter that will show you are sincerely sorry for your mistake.
Why would you write an apology letter for plagiarism?
Plagiarism, the act of taking another person’s words or ideas and using them as though they were your own, without crediting the person you got them from, is considered a serious offense in just about every context.
If you commit plagiarism while you are studying at a university, you could get kicked out of school.
If you commit plagiarism on the job, you could lose your job or even your career if you work in a field where writing is the main part of what you do.
Although civil cases involving plagiarism are rare, they do occur, so in certain circumstances, such as if your plagiarism constitutes a breach of contract or if you steal another person’s writing and become rich off of it, you could even face a lawsuit.
Even on a small scale–which is the scale on which most cases of plagiarism occur–plagiarism is considered unethical.
The short answer for the reason that you might write an apology letter for plagiarism is damage control.
Sometimes, writing a letter acknowledging what you did is enough to prevent any further repercussions.
Your school may require this as part of their disciplinary procedure, or you may want to write one to your boss at work.
A writer or journalist who plagiarizes in a very public way might also need to write an open letter of apology.
A sincere letter of apology can do a lot if you have plagiarized.
For example, there are some writers and journalists who have managed to make their way back into a career after a high-profile plagiarism.
One of the factors in people being able to bounce back from plagiarizing is how the person reacts when they are caught.
Showing genuine remorse at the time can make a big difference in some cases.
Chances are, your apology letter will be lower stakes than some of the above examples.
If you are a student, you might even have plagiarized without realizing you were doing something wrong.
You may not have been clear about what constitutes plagiarism or how to correctly credit a source.
Professors and universities generally understand that not every case of plagiarism is deliberate.
However, being able to write an apology letter demonstrating that you understand that what you did was serious and that you won’t do it again shows that you are aware of the gravity of the offense.
A less likely but not impossible scenario is one in which you have to write an apology letter to the person whose work you plagiarized.
This might be the case if, for example, you posted another person’s work on your website as though it was your own.
What do you need in apology letter for plagiarism?
Maybe the most important thing to remember in an apology letter for plagiarism is that you have to make sure you do not plagiarize again while writing the letter, even inadvertently!
We’ll include some samples below, but be sure to write a sincere letter in your own words, keeping in mind that you cannot avoid plagiarism by simply changing a few words or rearranging a sentence or two!
First, you should apologize for the plagiarism.
The next thing your letter needs to have is language that demonstrates that you understand the offense that you committed and the seriousness of it.
You should be as specific as possible. For example, you should list the date the plagiarism occurred or that you turned in the paper and the source that you plagiarized.
You can offer an explanation, but be sure that it does not come off as an excuse.
If appropriate, you should offer a remedy, such as rewriting the piece or reading up on plagiarism so that you better understand how to avoid it next time.
The latter would be appropriate if your plagiarism really was accidental.
In your closing paragraph or sentences, you should be graceful in addressing the person that the letter is to.
For example, if you are writing to your professor, you might reiterate your respect for them and thank them for giving you another chance.
Your tone should be formal and humble.
Sample apology letters for plagiarism
How you approach your apology letter will differ depending on the situation, and a few samples of those different situations can help you decide how to write your own.
One thing to keep in mind is that you should write this apology letter even if it will not lessen the consequences of your plagiarism.
Writing the letter shows integrity and demonstrates that you understand the ethical breach that you have committed.
Sample letter to a teacher
If you are a student in middle school, high school or college, you may have been caught plagiarizing a paper.
Note that there is language below that varies based on whether or not the plagiarism was accidental.
Dear Professor Brown,
I am writing to apologize for the plagiarized essay I turned on April 10. I used material from an article in “The Journal of Original Ideas” by Anya Jones without properly crediting the author.
[If the plagiarism was accidental, a paragraph like the below would be appropriate:]
I did not fully understand what constituted plagiarism and that I needed to credit the author for the ideas even if I did not use an exact quote. I realize that this is not an excuse, and I take responsibility for failing to fully review the class policy on plagiarism.
[If the plagiarism was not accidental, the above paragraph should be replaced with something more like this:]
I ran out of time and copied some material from an article by Anya Jones in “The Journal of Original Ideas” without attributing it to the author. I realize that although I was stressed at the time, this was wrong. I should have started the essay earlier, asked for an extension or simply used my own ideas even if it meant getting a poor grade in the end.
I am grateful for the opportunity to rewrite the paper with all ideas and quotes from others correctly attributed. I have a huge amount of respect for you and for my classmates, and I am glad that I will be able to continue to be a student in your class.
Apology for plagiarism at work
Plagiarism is usually an issue in educational settings, but anytime you use another person’s words or ideas, that counts as plagiarism.
Let’s say you put together a presentation or another document at work and used someone else’s words without attribution.
A coworker noticed, told your boss and now you are in trouble.
A letter like the one below can help you demonstrate to your boss that you are genuinely sorry.
Dear Mr. Noble,On December 5, I gave an office-wide presentation that used passages from the book “5 Secrets for Marketing Gurus” without crediting the author, Nora Marketer.
I was anxious about the presentation and used Ms. Marketer’s words in the presentation. Nerves are no excuse, and I should not have done this.
I am preparing an apology for my colleagues who witnessed my plagiarism, and I plan to take a course in business communication to improve my skills so that I will not find myself in a similar position again.
I know that what I did was both unprofessional and unethical. I hope you will accept my sincere apology for plagiarizing.
I take my job at Noble Marketing very seriously, and I hope to continue working hard to support the company’s mission and values, which I realize I violated.
Apology to the person plagiarized
There are also situations in which you might need to apologize to the person you plagiarized from, such as another blogger.
You might be tempted to try to flatter the writer by saying that you plagiarized their work because you admired it, but even if this is true, this is probably not the place to say it.
Here’s an example of how you might write such a letter:
Dear Ms. Marple,I am writing to apologize for taking your blog posts from February 1, 2019 and July 26, 2020 and reposting them to my own website as though they were my own work.
I realize that this was a profound ethical and professional violation, and I am very sorry.
I have put up a notice on my website admitting to this plagiarism and directing them to your blog instead. I am taking some time away from my site to reflect on what I have done.
It was wrong of me to use your work. Please let me know if there are other steps I can take to remedy this wrong.
Hey fellow Linguaholics! It’s me, Marcel. I am the proud owner of linguaholic.com. Languages have always been my passion and I have studied Linguistics, Computational Linguistics and Sinology at the University of Zurich. It is my utmost pleasure to share with all of you guys what I know about languages and linguistics in general.