QuillBot’s Guide to Paraphrasing

If you’re curious about what exactly it means to paraphrase, or how to paraphrase something, then this is the article for you.
Whether you’re conscious of it or not, you paraphrase every day ━ we all do.
It’s a skill that we see in professional settings, on TV, and in literature. Paraphrasing is an essential part of communication, but what exactly is it? And how can you become proficient in it? Fear not; we’re about to walk you through it all.

Paraphrase Definition

The word “paraphrase” has two definitions, depending on the part of speech it represents in the sentence. As a verb, “to paraphrase” means “to express the meaning of (the writer or speaker or something written or spoken) using different words, especially to achieve greater clarity.” As a noun, “paraphrase” is defined as “a rewording of something written or spoken by someone else.”
“to paraphrase” is defined as “a rewording of something written or spoken by someone else.”
“to paraphrase” means “to express the meaning of (the writer or speaker or something written or spoken)”
Let’s look at it this way: if you were talking to a friend about what the characters said in your favorite scene of a movie, you wouldn’t repeat all of their lines word-for-word. Instead, you would give your version of what happened in the scene.
Paraphrasing is about describing something without quoting it exactly the way it originally was, and instead giving a more general description of the language presented.
“The weather was very rainy, so he decided to pack accordingly. He brought rain boots, an umbrella, and a waterproof jacket. Although there was heavy cloud cover, the news said it was going to lighten up by the afternoon, so he packed his favorite sunglasses.”
“He packed ahead for the rainy day, and he also brought sunglasses in case it got sunny.”

Why is Paraphrasing so Important?

Understanding the importance of paraphrasing comes down to one thing: easy communication.  When a source is paraphrased, it usually becomes more straightforward because it is rephrased and broken down in a way that is easily digestible.

To truly answers the question of “why is paraphrasing important?” We must first understand some other forms of information referencing.

Quoting as Paraphrasing
Quoting as Paraphrasing
When something is quoted, it is repeated in the same way it originally appeared.   Reading aloud from a book or a magazine would be considered quoting that book or magazine, because the words are being read in the exact way in which they were written.
Summarizing as paraphrasing
Summarizing as paraphrasing
Another referential device commonly used is summarizing. A summary is a brief account of the main points of something.  Summaries are the exact opposite of quotes because they focus on painting a broader picture rather than recounting specific details.   Here is what makes paraphrasing so great:
Paraphrasing combines the brevity of summarizing with the precision of quoting. For something to be a paraphrase, it doesn’t have to be an exact imitation of its reference, but it should fall in line with the original source’s intent.
Paraphrasing isn’t necessarily expected to be as brief as possible. While quotes have to be exact, and summaries have to be short, a paraphrase doesn’t need to be either. It just needs to be accurate.

Paraphrasing Examples

The best way to learn is through example, so we’re going to take a look at some examples of paraphrasing. Seeing the process taking place will really help you in understanding how the whole thing works.
If you’re going to South America, you’ve got to check out Brazil. It’s the largest, most populated country on the continent. Plus, the rich culture and bustling cities will ensure your trip is exciting.
Brazil is an exciting place to visit in South America.

When Should Paraphrasing Be Used?

Choosing to paraphrase is often a smart decision, but in academic writing and professional material, it should only be used under certain circumstances. Let’s take a look at when paraphrasing can and should be used.
To simplify gathered data.
Oftentimes, graphs and statistics are complicated and don’t clearly state what relevant information they show. If you’re trying to communicate the conclusion of research, simply paraphrase what’s happening within the data.
To keep the writing concise.
Many writers like to go into detail about specific subjects, which can be technical or highly specialized. Adding a quick paraphrase helps a general audience understand an idea more quickly and comprehensively.
To explain something with less detail.
Whether talking to a friend about an event or explaining what happened during part of a movie, paraphrasing helps us quickly extract the information we need from a situation without wasting time.
To establish the credibility of something.
Oftentimes, people of great importance are quoted on a subject on which they are proficient. Paraphrasing a quote like this can be an effective way to reel in audiences and immediately prove an individual’s credibility.

How to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing, like most things, is a process. When determining how to paraphrase, there are a few things you must do every time. The paraphrasing steps are easy, but should be followed to a T in order to ensure accurate and successful information. You can paraphrase correctly every time by following the five steps below:
Understand the material
Go over the source material a few times until you have a strong understanding of what it’s saying.
Test your knowledge
Without looking at the text, write down what you remember about its main ideas. Be careful not to write down memorized phrases, but rather the main ideas.
Play with words
Play with and modify things like word usage, sentence structure, and overall flow. Make it as unique as possible while staying true to the original intent.
Replace words
Compare your paraphrase with the source and change anything that could be considered plagiarism (i.e. direct quotes without citations).
Make it more original
Reference back to the text and add important details into your writing that you didn’t originally have. Then repeat.
The 4 “Rs” of paraphrasing
To improve a paraphrase, be sure to review your writing multiple times, looking for any ways to make the paraphrase more independent from the original text. To do this, follow the “Four Rs of Paraphrasing”:
Ask yourself if any of the words you used were copied. Look at the words used in the original work as well as your own, and replace them with synonyms. It’s important to do this for longer and less commonly-used words.
In many cases, one can dramatically change how a sentence sounds and feels just by switching phrases and words around. Try putting the subject at the start of one sentence, and then at the end of the next.
Some words are unchangeable. Certain information (such a city name or a date) cannot be changed. Also, if part of a sentence must be kept the same, the rest must be changed to avoid plagiarism.
Once you’ve taken note of these steps, it’s time to check it all again. There’s no harm in doing a few more reviews of your writing.

3 Types of paraphrasing

The three types of paraphrasing are based on the intention of the writer.
This type of paraphrase is done to add information and to answer a potential question. It is used when clarifying the details of something with brevity.
Organizing. This type of paraphrase is done to explain a topic or series of events with fewer details. Many times, organized paraphrasing involves adding a numbered list with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
Changing Focus
Paraphrasing is a great way to change the direction of writing, offering your audience quick nuggets of information in a short amount of time. It’s often used as an introduction to something, especially in the form of a paraphrased story.

Paraphrasing and Avoiding Plagiarism

When you’re paraphrasing, plagiarism is the biggest pitfall you can encounter. Unfortunately, plagiarism and paraphrasing often go hand-in-hand; this can be avoided by citing all outside sources, whether they are paraphrased or not. According to the Harvard College Writing Program, there are six main types of plagiarism, four of which apply to paraphrasing. As long as your paraphrasing doesn't fit under any of these categories, it’s not considered plagiarism.
Verbatime Plagiarism
Verbatim plagiarism. Copying someone else’s work in the exact way they wrote it.
Mosaic Plagiarism
Adding pieces of someone else’s work into your own without citing them or giving them credit.
Inadequate Paraphrase
The original source and the paraphrase are so similar in length and content that they could be mistaken for one other.
Uncited Paraphrase
The paraphrase itself is well written, but doesn’t contain credit to the original author.

Paraphrasing vs. Quoting vs. Summarizing

Choosing to paraphrase is often a smart decision, but in academic writing and professional material, it should only be used under certain circumstances. Let’s take a look at when paraphrasing can and should be used.
Changes the words while maintaining their meaning
A direct copy of the original words/text
Condenses large text into smaller descriptions
Can be longer or shorter than the original text
The exact same length as the original text
Shorter than the original text
Used to clarify or better explain the original text
Used as evidence or to back up a claim
Used to explain events/text in order and to save time
Does not need quotation marks; can use them if part of the paraphrase is a quote
Must include citation of the original text
Must include citation of the original text
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