If you are writing a blog post about some other commentator is wrong, eventually you will come to a choice. You will have to decide whether to quote the person or link to their article. Here are some things to think about when deciding whether to quote someone you disagree with.
Controversial topics are a great source for blog inspiration. When someone in your industry puts out a questionable opinion, you can often show your expertise and professionalism by writing a thoughtful, well-articulated response. But should you quote the original opinion? Link to it? Cite it in any way?
I have a friend who makes her living training horses. She’s good at it, and she’s good at training horse owners how to do it themselves. She recently discovered that someone in her industry had created a short-cut to one common problem – a device that held the horse’s head down for them. She disagreed with the practice, so she wrote a blog about it. But she chose not to specifically reference the device or the person offering it. Instead she spoke more generally about why short cuts are bad.
Sometimes You Don’t Need a Citation.
There is some wisdom in this. By speaking generally, she was able to include more than just this one device, and speak more broadly about shortcuts in her industry.
The same is true in the legal field. Sometimes, if you are speaking out against a broad range of practices, you may not need a citation. For example, if you are advising business clients against using online forms, you may not need to cite to LegalZoom. The topic is broad enough and the advice general enough that a citation will just draw attention where it doesn’t belong.
When Citations, Links, and Quotes Matter
But if your beef with a particular argument is more nuanced, you are going to want to give your reader context. You will need to explain in detail what the other person’s opinion is and why you disagree with it. If you find yourself paraphrasing the opponent’s argument, it’s time to throw in some form of citation. If you don’t someone could argue that you are plagiarizing your opponent’s words. Online, a citation is most often a link to the source article.
That doesn’t mean you need a block quote featuring the author’s strongest point. You can always choose to paraphrase the argument in a way that showcases its weaknesses. If you do choose to use a quote, you can be selective and use the parts of the article that demonstrate why your view is better. In this way, blogging is no different than a well written legal brief or law review article.
But I Don’t Want to Give My Opponent’s Blog Traffic!
Some blog writers avoid links, particularly to sites they disagree with. They don’t want to boost their opponent’s SEO by giving them the extra blog traffic. But here’s the thing: unless you are actively searching out a particular opinion, in all likelihood, the source article will already have a strong SEO presence. Otherwise you wouldn’t have found it.
By using external links to that site, you will strengthen your own SEO, probably more than you will affect the other article. People searching for that article may very well find yours as a related link containing similar keywords. If you really want to use your opponent’s audience against them, you can even post a comment on the source article, respectfully disagreeing and pointing readers to the commentary posted on your blog.
Using citations, links, and quotes in your commentary blogs usually does more harm than good. It focuses the argument, gives context, and boosts SEO. It can also make you appear more confident and professional to your readers. The next time you enter the fray of an industry controversy, do it in a way that shows you are an expert, and unafraid of the other side seeing what you have to say.
Lisa Schmidt is an author for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for law firms and small businesses. If you are ready to give your website a boost, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.