Paraphrasing and Summarizing: Understanding the Differences
Paraphrasing and summarizing are two tasks that many people do in their lives. It does not really matter if they are writers or not, people are always summarizing the things they have read, or heard.
They usually paraphrase the information that they relay to others during conversations and writing. However, precisely because these two techniques are used so commonly, there is some confusion about them.
What happens is that people use both techniques at once i.e., they are simultaneously summarizing and paraphrasing. Understandably that makes it hard to tell the difference.
So, in this article, we will explain the proper differences along with examples to show you how these two techniques differ.
What is Paraphrasing?
Paraphrasing is the technique of using different words and phrases to restate some sentences/passages without changing their meaning.
The output of a paraphrase is a write-up that provides the same message/has the same semantic sense, but its syntax is changed considerably.
“The Sun is a giant ball of fire that provides Earth with heat.”
It can be paraphrased as:
”The Sun is an enormous, fiery ball that warms our planet”
Different words, same meaning. And that is paraphrasing in a nutshell.
Now, a sentence/passage can change in length during paraphrasing. They can become longer or shorter after the changes. This is because some words are replaced with longer phrases and vice versa.
Techniques of Paraphrasing
Now you probably understand what paraphrasing is, so how do we apply it consciously in our writing?
Well, there are certain techniques for paraphrasing, and most of them depend on your own vocabulary. It is easier to paraphrase stuff if you have a large vocabulary. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at some techniques.
1. Replace words with synonyms
This is pretty simple and straightforward. You go over the text that you want to paraphrase and pick out some words that you replace with their synonyms. Here is an example:
“I want to wash my car with a hose”
It can be changed like this:
“I want to shower my vehicle with a pipe.”
“Hose”, “Car”, and “Wash” have been replaced with their synonyms “Pipe”, “Vehicle”, and “Shower”.
2. Replace Words with Phrases and Vice Versa
Replacing words with their synonyms is one method, but another is replacing them with synonymous phrases. Of course, the opposite is true as well, you can replace an entire phrase with one word if it’s possible.
Here are some examples:
“This is a great machination of evil-minded fellows! They wish to destroy my reputation and drag my name through the mud.”
This can be rephrased as follows:
“This is a plot of my enemies. They want to ruin my standing and smear my name with mud.”
As you can see “great machination” has been changed to “plot”, while “evil-minded fellows” have been replaced with “enemies” and so forth.
3. Changing Sentence Structure
Sentence structure can also significantly alter how a sentence reads and looks. If it is paired with other techniques of paraphrasing, then it becomes very potent.
Here’s how it looks:
“This is a sentence whose structure can be altered quite easily”
After changing the structure:
“A sentence with an easily altered structure this is.”
That may sound a bit like a certain green alien, but it is grammatically correct, and it is good enough as an example.
4. Changing Voices
There are two main types of voices in English; Active and Passive. Active voice is the preferred medium as it is more commanding, easier to read, and sounds good. However, during paraphrasing, changing a few instances of active voice with the passive voice is a valid technique. The opposite also holds true, changing the passive voice with an active one is a valid paraphrasing technique.
Here is how that looks with an example:
“The man kicked the ball high into the sky”
This is an instance of active voice. The subject “man” is directly followed by the verb “kicked” which is followed by the object “the ball”. This structure in which the “subject-> Verb->object” order is followed is called the active voice. Now, let’s see how this looks after converting it into passive voice.
“The ball was kicked high into the sky by the man.”
The sentence structure was changed when switching the voices. In passive voice, the object comes first, followed by the verb, which may or may not be followed by the subject.
Changing voices involves changing the sentence structure, which can be seen in the examples as well. Anyhow, those are the four techniques of paraphrasing.
What to do If you aren’t Confident in your Own Paraphrasing?
Well, that’s nothing to worry about, in cases such as these, you can simply look to the internet. There is a multitude of tools available that can paraphrase automatically. They are capable of most if not all the techniques of paraphrasing on their own.
Here are some example screenshots of the aforementioned tools in action.
Summarizing is the technique in which you shorten, or condense the contents of a passage. The summary provides the same information as its original text albeit with fewer details.
For example, the introductory paragraph of this article:
“Paraphrasing and summarizing are two tasks that many people do in their lives. It does not really matter if they are writers or not, people are always summarizing the things they have read, or heard.
They usually paraphrase the information that they relay to others during conversations and writing. However, precisely because these two techniques are used so commonly, there is some confusion about them.”
Can be summarized as:
“Paraphrasing and summarizing are common tasks everyone does daily. They summarize things they read/hear and paraphrase them when they pass them on. Because the techniques are used together too often, there is some confusion about their differences.”
The two paragraphs were shortened into one. The shortened paragraph provides the same information as the original one. This is called a summary.
There are not many techniques for summarizing as compared to paraphrasing
Briefly speaking they can be listed as follows:
- Identify the core points of a write-up
- Extract sentences that best define those points
- Remove any details that are supplementary
- Write the sentences that best describe the points together in a coherent fashion
And you get an extractive summary. Extractive means that the summary uses sentences from the original without changing them. In contrast, we have the abstractive summary; the summary is also paraphrased so that it portrays the same information but by using different words and phrases.
Abstractive summaries are the reason people mistake the two techniques for one. In abstractive summaries, it is very common to utilize paraphrasing to use words in place of phrases to make the text as concise as possible. Extractive summaries are really easy to create as they can be made with the help of tools such as Summarizer.org or Quillbot.com. You can see how this tool works in the image below:
Comparison of Paraphrasing and Summarizing
In line with our topic, we will create a comparison table for summarizing and paraphrasing and how they differ.
|Shortens the text||No||Yes|
|Changes the Syntax of the text||Yes||No|
|The meaning of the text does not change||Yes||Yes|
So, we can see that there is only one similarity between the two techniques and that is their ability to preserve the meaning of the original text.
And there you have it. The differences between paraphrasing and summarizing. From this article, you have learned, what is paraphrasing, how to do it with and without tools, as well as summarizing.
Hopefully, you will not have any trouble telling the two apart in the future, and you will be able to use the techniques to your advantage as well.