I. What is a Paraphrase?
A paraphrase (pronounced par–uh-freyz) is a restatement or rewording of a paragraph or text, in order to borrow, clarify, or expand on information without plagiarizing. Paraphrasing is an important tool to use when writing research papers, essays, and pieces of journalism.
II. Examples of Paraphrasing
For examples of paraphrasing, consider these possible re-wordings of the same statement:
She angered me with her inappropriate comments, rumor-spreading, and disrespectfulness at the formal dinner table.
She made me angry when she was rude at dinner.
This paraphrase is an example of a rewording which shortens and simplifies while maintaining the same meaning.
Her impoliteness, gossiping, and general lack of respect at dinner infuriated me.
This rephrasing maintains the same meaning but is rearranged in a creative way.
I was mad when she started spreading rumors, making inappropriate comments, and disrespecting other guests at our dinner.
Another paraphrase, this rewording properly and interestingly rearranges the information provided in the original sentence.
III. Types of Paraphrasing
A. Change of Parts of Speech
Parts of speech ranging from verbs and nouns to adjectives and adverbs are replaced with new parts of speech in this type of paraphrasing. Here is an example:
The boy quickly ran across the finish line, seizing yet another victory.
The quick boy seized yet another victory when he ran across the finish line.
In this example, many parts of speech are changed: the adverb quickly becomes the adjective quick, and the verb phrase with the gerund seizing becomes the verb seized.
B. Change of Structure
This type of paraphrasing involves changing the sentence’s structure, sometimes creating a passive voice from an active voice and vice versa. The change in structure can be used to reflect the writer’s interpretation of the original quote. Here is an example of change of structure paraphrasing:
Puppies were adopted by numerous kind souls at the puppy drive.
Many kind souls adopted puppies during the puppy drive.
In this example, the object of the sentence (kind souls) becomes the subject with an active voice (adopted) rather than a passive voice (were adopted).
C. Reduction of Clauses
Reduction of clauses paraphrases reduce the number of clauses in a sentence, which can be interruptive or confusing, by incorporating the phrases into the sentence. Here is an example of reduction of clauses paraphrasing:
While I understand where you’re coming from, and truly respect your opinion, I wish you would express yourself more clearly, like Clara does.
I understand where you’re coming from and respect your opinion, but I wish you would be more like Clara and express yourself more clearly.
D. Synonym Replacement
Synonym replacement paraphrasing is one of the simplest forms of paraphrasing: replacing words with similar words, or synonyms. Here is an example:
The older citizens were honored with a parade for those once in the military.
Senior citizens were honored with a march for veterans.
In this example, many synonyms are used: older citizens are senior citizens, a parade becomes a march, and those once in the military refers to veterans.
IV. The Importance of Using Paraphrase
Paraphrasing is a way of referencing a source without directly quoting it or of further explaining a selected quote. Correct paraphrasing is important in that poor paraphrasing can result in accusations of plagiarism, or copying from a source without correctly citing it. Paraphrasing allows writers to examine the meaning of others’ work, creatively rephrase their statements, and craft information to suit an essay or composition’s goal or focus.
V. Paraphrase in Literature
Paraphrasing can be found in a variety of journalistic sources from newspapers to film documentaries to literary journals. Here are a few examples of paraphrasing in literature:
Someone once wrote that musicians are touched on the shoulder by God, and I think it’s true. You can make other people happy with music, but you can make yourself happy too.
In John Berendt’s nonfiction novel Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil, a character references what someone has once written by paraphrasing their message.
I’m going to paraphrase Thoreau here… rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth.
In this example from the nonfiction novel Into the Wild, Jon Krakauer paraphrases Thoreau’s larger message of transcendence.
So far, Laurance’s critiques of new road-building schemes have been well received, but he expects that to change.
In Michelle Nijhuis’ article “What Roads Have Wrought,” William Laurance is paraphrased rather than quoted to express his general viewpoint.
VI. Paraphrase in Pop Culture
Paraphrasing is often found in pop culture when attempting to translate the language of older plays, poems, and stories, such as Shakespeare’s works. Here are a few examples of paraphrasing in pop culture:
10 Things I Hate About You (1999):
Just a minor encounter with the shrew… the mewling, rampalian wretch herself.
In the modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Taming of the Shrew, many characters’ lines paraphrase Shakespeare’s originals. Here is Shakespeare’s version:
A meacock wretch can make the curstest shrew.
A Different World: Romeo, Oh Romeo
First, the student reads Shakespeare’s original words:
Oh gentle Romeo. If thou dost love, pronounce it faithfully. Or if thou thinkest I’m too quickly won, I’ll frown and be perverse and say thee nay, so thou wilt woo.
Then, she paraphrases to translate its meaning for modern ears:
It’s all about translation. Oh, sweet thang Romeo. If you think I’m all that, then step to me correctly. But if you think I’m a skeeze, I’ll be dissin’ and dismissin’, then you’ll be workin’ overtime getting’ me back.
VII. Related Terms
Like paraphrases, summaries are rewordings of original statements. Whereas paraphrases are precise and specific, summaries are brief and selective. Summaries report main points in a shortened version of the original, whereas paraphrases simply restate the original statement in a new way. Here is an example of summary versus paraphrase:
At the party we had delicious red punch, a bunch of different appetizers, and a cookout. Since it was at the park, we played volleyball, went swimming, and sunbathed for fun.
At the party we enjoyed food and drink and various outdoor activities.
Here, the summary purposefully shortens the original statement while covering its major points.
At the party we drank some punch, ate a handful of appetizers, and had a cookout. The park allowed us to enjoy a number of enjoyable activities from volleyball to swimming to sunbathing.
As this example shows, the paraphrase rephrases the original statement and keeps more of its original content than the summary.
Although paraphrase sometimes translates difficult phrasing into more understandable phrasing, it is not literally considered translation. For something to be a translation, it must change writing in one language to another language. Here is an example of translation versus paraphrasing:
Translation into French:
C’est la vie.
That’s just how life goes sometimes.
Although we loosely may refer to paraphrase as translating ideas, technically it is not a tool of translation.
VIII. In Closing
Paraphrasing is an important tool for nonfiction writers, journalists, and essayists alike. It is a common proponent of news and reporting. Correct paraphrasing protects writers from plagiarism and allows them to creatively rephrase original works, incorporating them into their own compositions.