What Is Paraphrase? Definition & Examples

Ever imagined having the power to reshape sentences while preserving their original essence? Welcome to the captivating world of paraphrasing! This invaluable tool in our communication arsenal allows us to reinterpret and rearticulate thoughts, amplifying clarity and enriching dialogue.

Whether you’re a writer seeking variety, a student mastering a language, or a professional communicating complex ideas, understanding and employing paraphrasing can revolutionize your expression.

Dive into this insightful journey of ‘saying it differently’ and explore the transformative power of paraphrase!

Understanding Paraphrasing

Definition of Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is the process in which one takes a pre-existing piece of content, whether written or verbal, and restates it using distinct phrases, words, and structure, while ensuring the original meaning stays intact. It is a method of creatively reproducing a text, thought, or concept in a reformed way, yet maintaining the identical core essence.

The intent behind paraphrasing is not to change the message, but rather to rephrase it in a unique manner while preserving its inherent meaning.

Purpose of Paraphrasing

Imagine you’re at a party and there’s a guy explaining something about rocket science. He’s using all kinds of complex terms and formulas that are flying over everyone’s head. Now, you have a friend who’s good at this stuff. He understands what the rocket guy is saying.

After rocket guy finishes, your friend steps in. He explains the same thing but in a way that’s easy for everyone to understand. He uses simple words, and everyday examples — like explaining thrust using the example of a balloon releasing air.

That’s what paraphrasing is like. It’s about taking something complex and making it simple and understandable for others. It’s like being a translator, but instead of converting from one language to another, you’re converting from ‘complex’ to ‘simple’.

Paraphrasing in Different Contexts

Paraphrasing in Research

Paraphrasing is a crucial skill that researchers need to master in order to accurately represent the ideas of others in their work. In research, paraphrasing is used to avoid plagiarism and to ensure that the information presented is accurate and relevant. Researchers often paraphrase information from primary and secondary sources to support their arguments.

When paraphrasing in research, it is important to maintain the original meaning of the text while using different words and sentence structures. Researchers should also cite their sources properly to avoid any accusations of plagiarism.

Paraphrasing in Essays

Paraphrasing is also an important skill for essay writing. In essays, paraphrasing is used to introduce and explain the ideas of others without copying their exact words. Paraphrasing can help to strengthen the argument of an essay by providing evidence that supports the writer’s viewpoint.

When paraphrasing in essays, it is important to use language that is appropriate for the intended audience. It is also important to ensure that the paraphrased information is relevant to the essay topic.

Paraphrasing in Literature

Paraphrasing is a common practice in literary analysis. In literature, paraphrasing is used to explain complex ideas and to provide evidence to support a particular interpretation of a text. Paraphrasing can also be used to clarify difficult language or to provide context for a particular passage.

When paraphrasing in literature, it is important to use language that is appropriate for the intended audience. It is also important to ensure that the paraphrased information is relevant to the literary analysis being presented.

Paraphrasing Vs Summarizing

Let’s say you just read an interesting book and you want to tell your friend about it. There are two ways you could go about this:

Paraphrasing is like retelling the story in your own words. You still cover all the important parts, but you use different words and phrases, maybe even different sentence structures. You keep the same meaning as the book, but you’re not quoting it word for word. You’re putting your spin on it.

This is especially useful when you want to delve into a particular part of the story in more detail, or maybe explain a complicated part in simpler terms.

Summarizing, on the other hand, is like giving your friend the “highlight reel” of the book. You’re not going into every single detail, but instead, you’re giving them a shorter version that captures the main points or the essence of the story. This is great if your friend is in a hurry and just wants the key takeaways from the book.

So, paraphrasing is like retelling the story in your own words, while summarizing is more like giving the cliff-notes version. They’re both handy tools to have when you’re trying to share information from a text, and they each serve different purposes.

Etymology and History

The term paraphrase comes from the Greek word “paraphrasis,” which means “additional manner of expression.” The Greek word itself is composed of the prefix “para,” meaning “beside,” and the verb “phrazein,” which means “to tell” or “to express.”

The concept of paraphrasing has been around for centuries, with ancient Greek and Roman writers often using it to explain complex ideas in simpler terms. In the Middle Ages, paraphrasing was used to translate religious texts from Latin into various vernacular languages.

During the Renaissance, the art of paraphrasing became more refined, with scholars using it to interpret and explain classical texts. In the 17th and 18th centuries, paraphrasing was used extensively in literary criticism, with writers paraphrasing passages from other works to illustrate their points.

Today, paraphrasing is a common practice in many fields, including academia, journalism, and business. It is often used to explain complex ideas in simpler terms, to summarize long passages of text, or to rephrase information in a way that is easier to understand.

The Importance of Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is an essential skill for academic writing. It involves restating someone else’s ideas in your own words, without changing the meaning. Paraphrasing is important for several reasons, including avoiding plagiarism, enhancing understanding, and improving writing skills.

Avoiding Plagiarism

Plagiarism is presenting someone else’s work as your own without acknowledging them. It’s akin to intellectual theft and is considered a serious violation in academia. For instance, copying a paragraph from a source into your report without citation is plagiarism.

Paraphrasing can help avoid this. It involves understanding someone else’s ideas and expressing them in your own words. Rather than just changing a few words, you fully understand the content and articulate it from your perspective. This demonstrates your grasp of the material and your original work.

However, even while paraphrasing, crediting the original source is essential. This involves citing the source, acknowledging where the ideas originated.

Enhancing Understanding

When you’re paraphrasing, you are doing a lot more than just reading. You’re actively engaging with the text, thinking about what the author is trying to say, breaking it down, and then rebuilding it using your own language. This is like doing a jigsaw puzzle; you have to understand how all the pieces fit together to see the whole picture.

This process forces you to really grasp the key ideas and concepts in the text. Sometimes, you may even discover that you didn’t fully understand the material until you tried to paraphrase it. The act of putting something complex into your own words can shine a light on areas that you didn’t understand as well as you thought.

So, paraphrasing not only helps you avoid plagiarism, but it can also be a powerful tool for understanding and learning. It encourages you to delve deeper into the material, and to be an active rather than passive learner.

Improving Writing Skills

Paraphrasing is like restating something in your own language. It’s an essential writing skill, allowing you to express ideas clearly and succinctly. Just like exercising to get stronger, practicing paraphrasing improves your writing.

This practice also helps you develop your unique writing style or “voice”, making your work more interesting to read. Think of this voice as your writing fingerprint, something that sets you apart.

So, just like learning a new sport or cooking technique, mastering paraphrasing is about consistent practice. As you improve, your writing will become clearer, more concise, and uniquely yours.

Examples and Applications of Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is the process of rewording, restructuring, or rephrasing a piece of text without changing its original meaning. It is a critical skill in many professions and fields of study. Here are some examples and applications of paraphrasing:

Paraphrasing in Academic Writing

Paraphrasing is crucial in academic writing, enabling authors to rephrase others’ ideas in their own style, retaining the original meaning.

Original passage:

“Businesses must evolve or disappear in the face of digital disruption by creating new strategies and adopting flexible models.”

Paraphrased passage:

“The digital age calls for a radical shift in business practices for survival, necessitating innovative strategies and adaptable operational models.”

Look at the given example above. The academic writer retains the core ideas from the original passage but rephrases them in a more nuanced way. In both cases, the basic message is the same, but the language and structure have been tailored to the author’s own style.

The result is a paraphrase that integrates seamlessly into the academic writer’s paper on digital transformation, providing evidence to support their arguments without directly quoting the original source. This allows for a cohesive flow of ideas and demonstrates the writer’s understanding of the subject matter.

Conveying Essence Without Direct Quotations

When in the process of conducting literature reviews, paraphrasing plays a crucial role in accurately conveying the essence of the source material, without resorting to direct quotations. This technique involves expressing the same idea in a different way to avoid plagiarism while still maintaining the core message of the original statement.

Original passage:

“Uncontrolled greenhouse gases release is the main cause of global warming.”

Paraphrased passage:

“Unchecked emission of greenhouse gases is the primary global warming contributor.”

Consider the example above. Here, the process of paraphrasing not only reiterates the key concept—that unrestricted release of greenhouse gases is largely responsible for global warming—but also utilizes a different set of words and a slightly altered sentence structure.

This kind of adaptation is essential in the context of literature reviews because it enables a fair and comprehensive assessment of the existing body of knowledge while promoting originality and academic integrity.

Moreover, it aids in the effective integration of diverse sources and views into a cohesive analysis or argument, thereby contributing to a richer understanding of the subject matter under scrutiny.

Aids in Simplifying Complex Ideas in Academic Discussions

Paraphrasing is an incredibly useful tool when it comes to breaking down intricate concepts, particularly in academic dialogues.

Original passage:

“The anomalous acceleration of Pioneer 10 and 11 results from onboard thermal sources’ radiation pressure.”

Paraphrased passage:

“The unusual speed increase of Pioneer 10 and 11 spacecrafts is due to heat radiation pressure from onboard sources.”

Take for instance, a highly technical statement such as the one above on the left columnn is filled with technical terms and it may be difficult for some to understand at a glance. Paraphrasing helped to make it more accessible.

By replacing complex terms with simpler words, the paraphrase retains the essence of the original statement but presents it in a simpler, more understandable manner.

In other words, the original concept is maintained, but the choice of words and sentence structure are altered to make the information more digestible. This is a crucial element of academic conversations, particularly when it comes to presenting complex data or theories to a broader audience, whether that be students in a classroom setting or the general public in a lecture or article.

Useful for Condensing Long Explanations

Paraphrasing is a beneficial tool in compacting extensive and often complex explanations into concise, digestible content. This can be especially helpful in academic, professional, or casual communication where understanding is paramount but time may be limited.

Original passage:

“Quantum computing refers to the area of computing where the principles of quantum mechanics are utilized to create advanced systems that can process and store information more efficiently than traditional computing models, especially when it comes to solving complex computational problems.”

Paraphrased passage:

“Quantum computing is a field that uses quantum mechanics principles to develop superior systems, offering better efficiency in processing and storing information, particularly for complex computational tasks.”

Let’s consider another sentence as an example. The sentence on the left column, while thorough, can be somewhat overwhelming due to its complexity and length. Paraphrasing can help in such a case.

The paraphrase maintains the key elements of the original statement — the concept of quantum computing, the usage of quantum mechanics principles, and the advantages of these systems over traditional models, especially in solving intricate computational problems.

However, it does so in a more streamlined and easily understandable manner. It manages to condense the information without losing its essential meaning, making it more accessible to a wide array of readers or listeners.

Paraphrasing in Journalism

Paraphrasing is a critical skill for journalists because it allows them to distill lengthy, complicated information into more accessible, concise reports for their readers or viewers. In doing so, they are still maintaining the original intent and meaning. Here are a few examples of how journalists might use paraphrasing:


Paraphrasing in journalism involves restating speeches, interviews, or other forms of spoken communication using different words, while still maintaining the original speaker’s intent, context, and key points. It is used to make information clearer or more suitable for a particular audience, or to avoid excessive direct quotations in an article.

When journalists cover speeches, for example, they rarely quote the entire speech verbatim. Instead, they typically paraphrase the key points, capturing the essence of the speech while adding their own style or emphasis. This allows readers who weren’t present at the speech to understand the main themes, points, and tone, without reading the entire transcript.

Here’s an example:

Original speech:

“We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Paraphrased version:

“Martin Luther King Jr. stressed the imperative of fostering unity and coexistence, warning that the alternative could lead to mutual destruction.”

In this paraphrase, the central message of unity and the dire consequence of its absence are maintained, while the original wording is rephrased for variety and clarity. This allows a journalist to integrate the key points from the speech into their article without resorting to a direct quote.


Paraphrasing in journalism, particularly in interviews, is when journalists take the words of the person they’re interviewing and rewrite them in a simpler, clearer or more succinct way. This is often done to make complex ideas more accessible to the general public, or to emphasize the key points of a conversation.

It’s important to note that while paraphrasing, the journalist must ensure that the original meaning of the person’s words is not altered.

Let’s consider an example. Suppose a scientist is being interviewed about a complex environmental issue.

Original statement:

“The data from our latest study shows a disturbing acceleration of species extinction in the last fifty years, which can be primarily attributed to anthropogenic activities. The proliferation of industries, deforestation, pollution, and climate change are significantly affecting biodiversity.”

Paraphrased statement:

“Our recent research shows a worrying increase in the number of species going extinct over the past half-century, largely because of human activities. The growth of industries, cutting down of forests, pollution, and changes in the climate are having a big impact on wildlife.”

In this example, the journalist has retained the essence of the scientist’s words but has simplified the language and removed scientific jargon (“anthropogenic activities,” “proliferation”) to make the message more understandable to the average reader.

However, it’s essential for journalists to be cautious when paraphrasing. They must strive for accuracy and avoid misrepresenting the interviewee’s views or intentions. If the paraphrasing significantly changes the meaning of the original statement, it can lead to misinformation or misunderstandings.


Paraphrasing in journalism also applies to the review and reporting of documents. Journalists often need to cover reports, studies, legal documents, or other types of written material that can be complex or filled with jargon.

In these cases, paraphrasing is used to summarize and simplify the content so it’s more accessible to a general audience. It’s crucial, however, that the paraphrasing accurately represents the original content.

For instance, let’s say a journalist is covering a recently published government report on the economy.

Original statement:

“The nation has witnessed a consistent positive trajectory in its gross domestic product (GDP) over the previous fiscal year. The primary catalysts for this growth are increased consumer spending and a resurgence in the manufacturing sector.”

Paraphrased statement:

“The country’s economy has been steadily improving over the last year, according to a new government report. The report suggests that people are spending more and factories are producing more, which are the main reasons for the growth.”

In this example, the journalist has translated the complex economic language into simpler terms that everyday readers can understand. They’ve also summarized a longer sentence into more digestible information.

However, as with paraphrasing in interviews, it’s crucial that journalists accurately represent the original document’s meaning. Misinterpretation or oversimplification can lead to misinformation or a lack of nuance in the reporting.

Journalists should strive to balance clarity and simplicity with accurate, thorough reporting.

Paraphrasing in Translation

When you’re translating from one language to another, you have to take a message or text in one language (the source language) and put it into another language (the target language).

This process is more than just swapping one word for another, because languages have different structures, sounds, and ways of conveying meaning. That’s where paraphrasing comes in.

Let’s say you’re translating a classic Spanish saying to English:

Original phrase:

“A quien madruga, Dios le ayuda.”

Literal translation:

“To who wakes up early, God helps him.”

As you can see, that translation is grammatically incorrect and awkward in English. But more importantly, it doesn’t quite capture the spirit of the saying, which is all about the virtues of rising early and working hard.

A skilled translator would know to paraphrase this saying. They might translate it as “The early bird catches the worm”. This English proverb carries the same essential meaning as the Spanish saying — that those who wake up and start working early will have success or be rewarded.

Paraphrasing in translation helps with cultural differences. Some phrases or concepts in one language might not exist in another, or they might be seen differently. A good translator will understand these cultural nuances and adjust the translation accordingly.

Paraphrasing in Everyday Language

Paraphrasing in everyday language is a very common yet often overlooked part of our communication. It refers to the process of taking someone else’s words (spoken or written) and rewording them to convey the same meaning in a different way. It’s a skill we use often in conversation, when we want to express something we heard or read, but in our own words.

In a casual setting, say you’re catching up with a friend who’s telling you about their recent vacation. They might say,

"The coastal landscapes were breathtakingly beautiful, offering a dynamic panorama of crystal blue waters and towering cliffs, all bathed in a golden sunlight that seemed to infuse every moment with an ethereal beauty." 

If you were to share this with another friend later, you might say,

"They said the beaches were gorgeous with clear blue water and big cliffs, and the sunlight made everything look almost magical."

The example above demonstrates how paraphrasing works in everyday language. We take in information, process it, and then rephrase it in a way that fits our personal style of expression and is appropriate to our audience. It’s an essential skill for effective communication, helping us to understand, remember, and relay information more effectively.

Citing Paraphrased Sources

When using paraphrased sources in an article, it is important to cite them properly to avoid plagiarism. Citing sources also gives credit to the original author and helps readers locate the source for further reading.

Importance of Citation

Citation is an essential part of academic writing. It allows readers to verify the information presented in the article and gives credit to the original author. Citing sources also helps writers avoid plagiarism, which is the act of presenting someone else’s work as one’s own.

Citation Styles

There are several citation styles available, the most common are: MLA, APA, and Chicago. Each style has its own set of rules and guidelines for citing sources.

The Modern Language Association (MLA) style is commonly used in the humanities.

In MLA style, the author’s name and the page number are included in parentheses after the paraphrased information.
The American Psychological Association (APA) style is commonly used in the social sciences.

In APA style, the author’s name and the publication year are included in parentheses after the paraphrased information.
The Chicago Manual of Style is commonly used in the publishing industry.

In Chicago style, the author’s last name, publication year, and page number are included in parentheses after the paraphrased information.

It is important to follow the specific guidelines of the citation style being used to ensure accurate and consistent citations throughout the article.

How to Paraphrase

Paraphrasing is the process of restating a text in your own words while retaining the original meaning. It is an essential skill for academic writing, as it allows you to incorporate information from sources in a way that is both accurate and original. Here are some steps to follow when paraphrasing:

Read and Understand

This might sound like a simple step, but it’s a crucial one. You must thoroughly comprehend the original content to be able to paraphrase it effectively. It may require reading the text multiple times, especially if the subject matter is complex. If you come across any words or phrases you’re unfamiliar with, look them up.

Identify Key Points

When you’re given a piece of text to paraphrase, your first task is to thoroughly read and understand it. The text could be a simple sentence, a complex paragraph, or a whole document, but the aim remains the same: to grasp the essence of the information presented. This step could involve reading the text multiple times, looking up unfamiliar terms or concepts, or even researching more about the topic if necessary.

In this way, identifying key points acts as a kind of roadmap to your paraphrase. By having a clear understanding of what needs to be included, you can focus your efforts and ensure that your paraphrase is both accurate and comprehensive. It enables you to maintain the integrity of the original text’s meaning while expressing it in a fresh and unique way.

It’s important to note that good paraphrasing also takes into account the tone and intent of the original text. It’s not just about what is being said, but also how it’s being said.

Put the Text Aside

Putting the original text aside as you begin to paraphrase is a crucial technique to prevent plagiarism. It compels you to recall what you’ve read and understood from the original content, rather than simply copying or closely mimicking the original wording.

This approach encourages the use of your own words and syntax to express the same ideas, which fosters a deeper understanding of the subject matter and promotes your own cognitive processing of the information.

When you remove the original text from your immediate view, you are less likely to fall into the trap of over-reliance on the original phrasing and structure.

By only referring back to the original to verify the accuracy of your paraphrase, you can ensure that your interpretation is your own unique reconstruction of the information, rather than an imitation of the original text.

Rewrite in Your Own Words

The act of writing your paraphrase is a significant part of the process and is where the rubber meets the road. Having distilled the original content down to its essential points, you now need to express these ideas in a fresh and distinct manner. This step is about more than just avoiding plagiarism; it’s an opportunity to engage your creative faculties and apply your linguistic skills.

Using your own style and vocabulary is fundamental in this phase. Everyone has a unique way of expressing thoughts and ideas, influenced by their individual experiences, culture, education, and personality.

Harnessing this unique voice is crucial in paraphrasing. The aim is not merely to change the wording of the original content but to reconstruct the ideas in a way that mirrors your distinct style of communication.

Your style might be formal or informal, succinct or descriptive, straightforward or complex, depending on the context and your personal preference. The key is to stay true to your voice while ensuring the meaning of the original text is preserved.

This authenticity of voice in paraphrasing not only enhances the originality of the work but can also make the content more engaging and relatable for your intended audience.

Switch the Structure

Adjusting sentence structure plays a critical role in the paraphrasing process. Not only does it help distinguish your paraphrase from the original text, but it also provides an opportunity to enhance readability, clarity, and emphasis. The sentence structure—how phrases and clauses are organized—greatly impacts how information is received by the reader.

Rearranging the order of points within a sentence or a paragraph can be an effective way to add variety and interest to your paraphrase, while preserving the essential information.

This might involve changing the order of ideas presented, shifting the focus of the sentence, or rearranging the sequence of events. Doing this requires a comprehensive understanding of the content, as changing the order of points must not distort the original meaning.

Use Synonyms

Using synonyms is key in paraphrasing, letting you craft a new text conveying the same ideas with different vocabulary, enhancing its uniqueness. Synonyms, words with similar meanings, help avoid repetition and enrich writing. Instead of repeating “important,” you might use “significant,” “crucial,” or “vital” for variety and engagement.

Yet, using synonyms in paraphrasing needs careful handling. Language is complex and nuanced, and synonyms, though similar, often carry subtle differences in connotation and usage, influenced by context, formality, and regional variations.

Consider “happy” and “ecstatic.” Both indicate positive emotion, but “ecstatic” implies a much stronger joy. Replacing “happy” with “ecstatic” could alter the meaning and intensity of the original text.

So, in selecting synonyms for paraphrasing, it’s vital they match the original text’s meaning and tone. Misusing synonyms can cause misunderstandings or distort the original message. You must often consider the broader context to determine the most suitable synonym.

Check Your Work

Post-paraphrasing, it’s vital to review the original text to ensure the central idea is preserved. Misinterpretation can occur when restructuring or rewording unfamiliar or complex content.

Comparing both texts is a quality check, ensuring key points are retained and critical details aren’t overlooked. This may need meticulous comparison of each aspect in your paraphrase and original text.

During this review, it’s important to ensure your paraphrase is a fresh interpretation, not a minor alteration of the original, preventing ‘patchwriting’, a form of plagiarism that involves slightly modifying the original sentences, a trap easy to fall into when paraphrasing difficult content.

By thoroughly comparing both texts, you can identify and rectify instances of excessive retention of original phrasing or structure. An effective paraphrase should embody your unique voice and style, not closely mirror the original author’s words.

Cite the Source

Paraphrasing doesn’t remove the need to cite the original author, as the core ideas remain theirs, irrespective of the context—academic, blog posts, or articles. Citations uphold academic honesty and intellectual property rights, as using paraphrased material without attribution can lead to plagiarism, with serious academic and professional implications.

Citation acknowledges the original author’s role in your work, offering a clear reference to the source and enhancing credibility by demonstrating that your ideas are anchored in recognized research or data.

Citation methods can differ based on the chosen style guide. For example, MLA style is preferred in humanities, APA in social sciences, and CMS in business, history, and fine arts.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is there a specific length for paraphrasing?

Not really. The length of a paraphrase will depend on the original content and your purpose for paraphrasing.

While paraphrasing, the goal is to convey the same message as the original text, but with different wording and potentially different sentence structure.

As a result, a paraphrase could end up being shorter, longer, or about the same length as the original text.

How can I tell if I’ve paraphrased correctly?

A successful paraphrase will convey the same information as the original text but in a new form. You can check the effectiveness of your paraphrase by asking yourself a few questions:

– Have you used your own words and sentence structures?
– Does your version maintain the original meaning?
– Is the source information fully and accurately represented?

If you can answer “yes” to these questions, you have likely paraphrased effectively.

What is the difference between paraphrasing and rewording?

While they may seem similar, paraphrasing and rewording have different connotations.

Paraphrasing is a more in-depth process, requiring a deep understanding of the text to convey the same idea with new words and sentence structure.

Rewording, on the other hand, often implies just changing words, often with the help of synonyms, and may not necessarily involve a complete restructuring of the sentence or paragraph.

Is it possible to paraphrase any kind of text?

Yes, in theory, it is possible to paraphrase any kind of text – from scientific articles to poems. However, the ease and accuracy of paraphrasing can depend greatly on the type of text.

Straightforward, factual texts like news articles or research papers might be easier to paraphrase accurately, while more abstract or creative texts like poems or philosophical treatises could prove more challenging due to their heavy reliance on specific word choices and stylistic elements.


Paraphrasing, when mastered, is a crucial skill in today’s information-dense world. It allows us to extract the essence of complex ideas and render them in digestible, unique language. It not only fosters our comprehension, but also allows us to articulate ideas credibly, while respecting intellectual property.

Ultimately, paraphrasing transcends mere rewording—it is the art of understanding, retaining, and retelling, one that aids in personal and professional growth.

It is a bridge between the vast realm of knowledge and our unique perspectives, making information sharing more democratic, accessible, and impactful.

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Kyna is a writer and aspiring doctor. Besides writing, she likes discovering new music, immersing herself in interactive books, and engaging in multiplayer shooter games. She is passionate about chemistry, human biology, and pharmacology, and is always eager to learn more about these subjects.