LEOLEO: Literacy Education Online

Using Paraphrases

A paraphrase is an indirect quotation. It must be documented because it relates in your own words and style the thoughts you have borrowed from another person. Paraphrases are more flexible than quotations. They fit more smoothly into your text, and you can express your own interpretations as you paraphrase.

Paraphrasing is used for the following reasons:

  1. to restate a difficult passage the reader may not understand,

  2. to explain or interpret concepts or unfamiliar terms,

  3. or to make abstract facts and ideas concrete.

There are two ways to paraphrase.


Substitute the original words of each sentence with synonyms. You can use the process as a first step in drafting paraphrases. There are two objections to this form of paraphrasing: since you paraphrase sentence by sentence, your overall structure may be awkward; and you also run a greater risk of plagiarism. Therefore, you should use free paraphrasing for all of your final drafts.


Use synonyms and rearrange the sentence structure. You can borrow the main ideas without necessarily keeping the same organization. This form of paraphrasing sounds more natural and is recommended.


  1. The Original Quotation

    "Four score and seven years ago, our fathers brought forth on this continent a new nation, conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal . . . ."

  2. A Literal Paraphrase

    Eighty-seven years before, our ancestors founded in North America a new country, thought of in freedom and based on the principle that all people are born with the same rights.

  3. A Free Paraphrase

    Our ancestors thought of freedom when they founded a new country in North America eighty-seven years ago. They based their thinking on the principle that all people are born with the same rights.

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LEO: Literacy Education Online

This page was written by Kelly A. Larson for the Write Place, St. Cloud State University, St. Cloud, Minnesota, and may be copied for educational purposes only. If you copy this document, please include our copyright notice and the name of the writer; if you revise it, please add your name to the list of writers.

Last update: 5 March 2004

URL: http://leo.stcloudstate.edu/research/usingpara.html