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What The Heck Is Paraphrasing? Might Be The Most Helpful Communication Skill

What the heck is paraphrasing? Well, it turns out it might be one of the most helpful communication skills you'll learn for your professional life. It consists of rewriting paragraphs or sentences, using different words and structures, to convey the same message. Read how it can help you and how to do it.

Paraphrasing definition

Paraphrase meaning: To paraphrase means to express the meaning of something using different words, usually –though not always– to achieve greater clarity. 

What is the purpose of paraphrasing?

Although most dictionary definitions mention that the main goal of paraphrasing is achieving greater clarity, there's so much more to it. Check out some of the situations in which paraphrasing will help you thrive.

#1 Achieve greater clarity

You can help others understand you better by tweaking the message (the words, the structure, the register). Imagine you are the project manager of a new product feature. If you have to explain the process to a new developer, you will need to explain all the technical aspects and details. Perhaps, they don't understand a word or two, and you will need to explain this same message again using different terms. Here are some paraphrasing sentences to achieve greater clarity:

  • Original: It is paramount that we accentuate the beneficial effects that this program has had.
  • Paraphrase: It is very important that we stress the beneficial effects of this program.
  • Original: May I take this opportunity to remind applicants that any special request should be sent to the email address below provided.
  • Paraphrase: If your application includes any special request, please email us at

#2 Grab your audience's attention

Now, take that same example and imagine you're explaining this new feature to the whole team. You may then want to summarize or simplify, as most of your coworkers might not need to know all the technical details. In this case, you're paraphrasing to suit your audience and grab their attention by giving them only what they need –instead of everything.

Look at the examples below. In the original sentence, the CTO is talking to one of the developers, while in the paraphrased sentence, she is talking to an Account Manager.

  • Original: The list for that query is populated manually by the server from users, and we are not able to determine that engagement list from such a complex expression.
  • Paraphrase: Please, remember to set the user status manually.

#3 Sell more

Learning to paraphrase will help you be more persuasive - to sell, to negotiate, to attract new customers. Repetition is a persuasive strategy widely used in marketing, politics, and sales. It consists of using moderate repetition in an argument, and it is based on the psychological basis that suggests that low to moderate levels of repetition within a message tend to make the receptors more open and in agreement with the argument. However, this repetition will be more impactful if done subtly. That is -if you find different ways to make the same argument repeatedly.

#4 Formulate someone else's ideas in your own words

Another example of paraphrasing is when you formulate someone else's ideas or messages in your own words. Instead of quoting someone (in written or spoken form), where you copy what another person has said with their exact words, you rephrase the message using different words. 

This is helpful in academic writing because it shows that you have understood the source and you are integrating it within your own narrative –though always remember to cite the original source (otherwise you will be committing plagiarism!).

Paraphrasing techniques

The following techniques are some of the most common ways in which you can reword a message.

#1 Changing vocabulary. Use synonyms and keywords to reword the original message. 

  • Original: The government of Denmark declared that the COVID crisis is no longer a threat. 
  • Paraphrase: Danish authorities announced that the COVID issue is not that dangerous anymore.

#2 Changing word category. Turn nouns into verbs, verbs into nouns, adverbs into adjectives, or adjectives into adverbs.

  • Original: The government of Denmark declared that the COVID crisis is no longer a threat. 
  • Paraphrase: Danish authorities announced that the COVID issue is not that dangerous anymore.

#3 Modifying sentence pattern. Alter the order of ideas or express the same idea with a different sentence structure.

  • Original: His personal secretary assisted him to complete the report. [verb]
  • Paraphrase: He completed the report with the assistance of his personal secretary. [noun]

#4 Changing the register. Adapt the message from formal to informal, or vice versa.

  • Original:  Any loss of this document should be reported immediately. [formal]
  • Paraphrase: If you lose this doc, let us know ASAP. [very informal] / If you lose this document, please report immediately. [neutral]

#5 Adapting the level of depth. Turn a specific message into a more general one, or vice versa. Omit information that your recipients don't need or add details if necessary.

  • Original:  Our account manager needs to manually set a user's status manually because the the system is not able to determine the engagement list from such a complex expression.
  • Paraphrase: Our account manager needs set the user status manually.

Learning how to paraphrase effectively will help you navigate the workplace in a more confident way. It takes practice, so you will want to try with a few examples. If you would like guidance from one of our communication experts, get in touch or join a free webinar. 

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Paraphrasing tool

You can also paraphrase a fragment by using a paraphrase generator. They're tools that rewrite your text and help you find different ways of expressing your message. It won't be the same as learning how to do it yourself,  but it may be helpful when you need to reformulate a piece of text. They can also help you "test" your paraphrasing skills and give you new ideas during your learning process. An interesting tool to paraphrase online is QuillBot. Play around with it and try to paraphrase, summarize, and check your grammar with a text you wrote. You can select the level of accuracy (from only changing words to implementing structural changes) and it is free to use online.

You can find more paraphrasing tools here but, again, these writing tools can come in handy and help you with your writing, but learning how to paraphrase on the go is a very powerful tool that we encourage you to learn.

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