How to paraphrase what you’ve read in your writing

person writing on white paper
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Paraphrasing involves rewriting passages using different words to make the meaning clearer to your reader. It can involve providing more details to clarify the original meaning of the content, but it does not involve adding new or different thoughts. The paraphrased content should still contain the original thoughts and ideas. Paraphrasing should make any “hidden” or “suppressed” meanings more explicit. The end result should contain the same general meaning, organization, proportion and tone.

Paraphrasing is often used with poetic text or older works of literature where the language can be obscure. However, it is an effective technique for explaining technical documents that are difficult for a general reader to understand. Paraphrasing is not summarizing, as it involves restating and explaining the content in fuller detail where necessary.

Follow these guidelines for paraphrasing content:

  • Read the original passage to identify the central theme or idea.
  • Differentiate between the main thoughts and ideas and the subordinate / supporting thoughts and ideas, and make note of how they are organized.
  • Pay close attention to what is emphasized in the original document, and reflect the areas of emphasis in the paraphrased content.
  • Check a dictionary or thesaurus to determine the meaning of unfamiliar words.
  • Use the same person (i.e., first person or third person) and tense (i.e., past or present) as the original document, and maintain the same tone where possible.
  • Rewrite phrases that are difficult to understand. Keep any words that are clear and precise.
  • Add illustrative examples where necessary to explain the content more fully.
  • Write as clearly and efficiently as possible, so that the ideas flow from one to the next.

Paraphrasing can be an effective tool for explaining content that is difficult to understand or unclear in its original form. You can also use paraphrasing in verbal communications to help with making statements clearer for both parties (but that’s for another day).

Do you need help with paraphrasing, or making your written communications clearer for your audience? Let me know – contact@davidgargaro.com.

David Gargaro

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