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Paraphrasing Quotations

Should You Paraphrase? Why? How?

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At times, you can make more impact by paraphrasing a quotation instead of quoting it verbatim.

What Is Paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is a restatement of the quotation using your own words. When you paraphrase, you don't rely on the words of the author of the quotation to create an impact. You use your own words.

Should one Always Paraphrase?
The answer is no. Your objective as a writer or speaker of a quotation is to make an impact. Evaluate both choices -- paraphrase and direct quote. Usually, paraphrasing makes more sense if:

  • the quotation is long and wordy
  • the words in the quotation are not powerful
  • the source of the quotation is unknown or dubious
  • you are capable of making a good paraphrase without making it seem like plagiarism.
An Effective Method of Paraphrasing a Quotation:
  • Carefully read the original quotation and make sure to understand its central idea.

  • Note down anything that grabs your attention. If you feel that some element (word, phrase, thought) contributes to the central idea of the quotation, make a note of it.

  • Write a paraphrase in your own words. Meticulously avoid using the original words, phrases, and expression. At the same time, make sure that your words convey the same central idea.

  • If you need to use an interesting word or phrase from the original text, use quotation marks to indicate that it is not your own.

  • Cite the author, the source, and the date given in the text, to credit the owner of the quotation. Remember: Though the words of the paraphrase are your own, the thought behind it isn't. To not mention the author's name is plagiarism.
What Is a Bad Paraphrase?
A bad paraphrase is one in which you simply substitute certain words with their synonyms, while maintaining the structure of the original quotation. To write a good paraphrase, borrow only the idea -- express the sentiment in your own words, in your own way.

How does a Paraphrase Differ From a Summary?
To the untrained eye, a paraphrase and a summary may look alike. However,

  • a summary is an abridged version of the original text.
  • a paraphrase can be shorter or longer than the original text.
  • a summary eliminates details, examples, and supporting points.
  • a paraphrase describes the original text in different words. It does not omit details.

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