Paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting are all related to what we do in the writing and research world. Learn how to recognize the difference between them by examining some examples.

Most of the time, when you think back to a previous conversation, text, or media, you don’t remember it exactly as it happened. That would require a memory better than what any of us could recall.

Instead, you’re going to be either paraphrasing what you heard or read, summarizing the information learned, or directly quoting pieces of what you remember.

Paraphrasing, summarizing, and quoting are all closely related, and as a result they can be difficult to distinguish.

It is a good thing for us to cover all of those things: paraphrasing vs. quoting, and all the other things that are important between those things. You’ll become an expert on these three activities by the time you reach the bottom of this page. Or else, you’ll get your money back (that’s the Quillbot blog guarantee!).

What is a paraphrasing?

When you say something, you are telling people the original information in your own words.

It is close enough. Cartoon stock.
It is close enough. Cartoon stock.

When people paraphrase, they are citing the sources in order to support an argument or a hypothesis. You may also use the comprehension test to test your reading comprehension because, if you can’t summarize a fact or an idea using your own words, it is likely that you do not yet understand that thing fully.

Another important reason to rephrase a statement is to make the information clearer, and perhaps to a different audience than what was originally intended. So an example of this would be when a scientist comes to a conclusion that is important, but they still use language that ordinary school children and the general public understand, and not jargon that they use in their field.

It is usually around the same length or a little shorter than the original fact or idea. This is because the purpose of phrasing is not to shorten the message, but to explain it in a different way.

When you are phrasing, make sure to always cite your sources, at the single-thought/idea/fact level. That means, as you write a topic sentence in a research paper, each time you cite a fact that you found from another source, you must also add an in-text citation to your paper so that readers can continue to do that particular piece of the puzzle.

If you do not include a source that you cited, you will be committing plagiarism, which is a serious offense and punishable. If you do not cite your sources, you are taking credit for someone else’s work, even if you do not intend to.

Not citing sources of information or ideas can also hurt you in the future because you will not be able to go back and add to a section of your work if you do not have the citations of where the supporting facts and ideas come from.

What is meant by summarizing?

A summary is a condensed version of a work. It is a summary that summarizes the work.

You got it? Cartoon stock.
You got it? Cartoon stock.

It is a summary of the main points that you have taught. You may also teach other important subjects. You may be taught in paragraph or bullet point format. One of the most important aspects of any summary is to be concise. That is, summarizing it is all about explaining the big picture in as few words as possible.

Using phrasing to clarify something, summarizing is used to condense information.

No one likes to read long summary of what has happened. That means that when you recount the two hours of movie that you saw to your friend, it shouldn’t take more than a few minutes. That’s why it is important to create a summary. When it comes to the important things, the little details are not as important as the big ideas.

It is essential that you cite the original text if you are going to submit or publish your work. It is particularly helpful for you to cite the person you are citing when you write summaries, even if you do not plan to turn in your work or post it on the internet, because if you ever want to look into that summary, you will be able to find out all the people to whom you have used all the references that you put in your summary.

What is the meaning of quoting?

To quote something, you must always say it exactly as it was originally presented, using quotation marks when it is written.

I think you shouldn't quote the raven too much. Cartoon stock.
I think you shouldn’t quote the raven too much. Cartoon stock.

If you directly quote someone, you are not permitted to change the context in that quote from what it is original, unless you explicitly state that in the quote. When writers want to be able to do that, they use brackets to add in a word or two to show that the meaning of the sentence has changed, to change the verb tense, or to show that the letter capitalization has changed.

When placing ellipses (…), it is possible to show that part of the quote has been cut out in order to get rid of irrelevant information or that the quote extends beyond what is stated in the quote.

Example Original Quote: “I had hoped it [the festival] would be a huge success this year to commemorate the city’s 100th anniversary. I began planning for this festival six months in advance. We planned to have a dance on Friday, a parade on Saturday morning, and an annual community appreciation celebration on Sunday night. On Saturday and Sunday of that week, we prepared bands, games, cooking challenges, and other family-focused events in order to bring all the people of Farmingdale together in celebration. The first weekend of the festival, there was rain and near-freezing temperatures that caused most of our outdoor events to be cancelled. But the dance and the community appreciation event, both of which went off without a hitch, and we are very grateful for that!

Example Quote with Ellipses and Brackets: “I had hoped it [the festival] would be a huge success this year to commemorate the city’s 100th anniversary. Rain and near-freezing temperatures caused most of our outdoor events to be cancelled. However, our celebration of the dance and community appreciation events both went off without a hitch!

Quoting is all about staying true to the source, and it is unacceptable to make any change gratuitously. When you use brackets to slightly alter a quote that you are going to use in a project, be sure that the changes are documented by brackets or ellipses.

Also, remember that any information that you add in brackets must be absolutely relevant and must not alter the meaning of the quote.

When quoting, you must cite the original source━there are no exceptions when it comes to this rule, whether you use in-text or parenthetical citations. When you quote something in another work, always attribute the quote correctly in your citation.

Is there a difference between phrasing and summarizing?

Medium, source of information.
Medium, source of information.

The key difference between phrasing and summarizing is in the intent.

By phrasing, I am not trying to remove any details. But, by summarizing, I am attempting to narrow down to the most important points, and the most important conclusions.

One important difference is that any sentence that is made from the referenced facts or ideas is going to be around the same length as the referenced fact or idea. So it will be around a sentence or two long. In contrast, a summary is purposely shorter—usually way shorter—than the source material, and there is a much higher volume of information that goes into a summary than does a paraphrase.

You might summarize an entire blog post into two paragraphs, focusing on the key points, the main points, and the conclusions.

You may also look at the conclusions that you have read in the blog post and decide that they might be a very good addition to your work. When you decide to cite this post and the information that has been written about the particular conclusion, it is best to work with a sentence or two, not with the whole article.

That is, phrasing and summarizing are both actions, in which you describe someone else’s work in your own way. I can see why in some cases it is hard to determine when to use each one. Let’s take a look at when and why you should be using your Kindle vs. what you should be using your Kindle.

When should you say something?

When you are trying to decide between summarizing or phrasing something, keep in mind these three things:

  1. What level of detail are you trying to get across? If you want to make sure that your audience understands very specific parts of your event, if you want to do that, you should use a professional event planner. If you only want to share the most important things, you can choose the summary route.
  2. You should think about the audience for which you are writing. If you are reading a dense white paper or other specialized report and you are thinking about retelling one of the most important points, you should think about the people who are reading it. You might be an expert, but if others are not, you can still understand the information. You can do this by phrasing it in a way that is less technical and more accessible.
  3. Make sure that you understand the cited work. Try to recast the facts and other bits of information that you are citing in your own words, without losing any of the detail or the meaning. If you are able to do that, that would be a good indicator that you have the ability to do that.

When you find yourself adding big-picture elements to your text that are not a part of the text, you may want to revisit the source to get more clarity. When you add information from other parts of a text to one specific idea, it forces you into summarizing territory.

When should you summarize your work?

This is a great way to quickly summarize the main points of a text or media. In these three instances, summarizing is better than phrasing.

  1. I provide a synopsis of a work. You can describe a book, article, movie, or piece of other media. Then give a summary to highlight only the important parts of the work, and with very little detail. Summaries are more useful when you want to talk about the big picture, rather than about one individual fact or idea.
  2. When compiling the notes. When you’re writing notes for your classes or projects, you are not tracing the different sources word-for-word. But if you are doing that, it’s a good thing that you are reading this article. Instead, you should choose the most important points from each source and use those points to research and study your subject.
  3. Check your comprehension of the written text. As with most written things, they do not start to write one and say, “here is the message and the meaning behind what we are writing.” So you can find out all about this, you must read between the lines of the text, and you must understand the whole text on a fundamental level.

By summarizing what you’re reading, you are ensuring that you understand the message and theme of the text, and what it means in a larger context, and why it is important.

What is the difference between paraphrasing and quote?

Source of the text is sourceessay.
Source of the text is sourceessay.

A phrasing and a quoting are opposites.

When you paraphrase an important text, you are rewriting it to fit your own purposes. In fact, whenever you quote a text, you are citing it exactly as it was originally written.

By phrasing, you are using your own words to describe something that someone else has said or written. By quoting, you are preserving what the original author wrote.

Using the right vocabulary, writers of all levels can sometimes confuse phrasing and quoting, but the main reason that they do so is that they are not citing the original source correctly. Both quotations and quotes must be cited, whether or not the quote is different from the original. When someone isn’t citing a quote, readers may assume that it’s your original thought or that it’s just a quotation. That is where the confusion starts.

If one of these is not cited properly, it will be considered plagiarism.

When should you say something?

Paraphrasing is done when you want to quote something from someone else, but you don’t necessarily want to quote directly from that source.

There are three main reasons why you should do that:

  1. You may also wish to emphasize a certain idea. It is very helpful if you can explain things in different ways, because everyone learns in different ways. Depending on who your audience is, they may need a source rephrased in order for it to resonate with them at their level of understanding. Sometimes it is helpful to use different words and contexts to highlight an idea or topic, and to help illustrate the intent of the text.
  2. That quote is not very helpful. From the Federalist papers to the writings of Aristotle, some of the best human writings are, well, hard to read. Many of the great thinkers that are worth referencing wrote in ancient languages that have no longer been used. But by phrasing things in modern day speech, people can understand the meaning of something and they can use it more easily.
  3. Quotes are not allowed. When you are writing for an academic or other professional audience, it may seem disingenuous to quote a large number of other people. No matter what the context is, if quotes are not allowed, or if you’ve already used several quotes, phrasing is the best way to express it.

When should you quote something?

When you need accurate information and it is straight from the source, then quote the source instead of just paraphrasing it. These are a few examples of where quoting makes more sense than phrasing:

  1. When you cannot say something better. If you cannot properly quote someone for your audience and purposes, you should quote directly. If you like the quote, even if you can see that it is just as it is, paraphrasing it is not a good move.
  2. When you want to get the best possible information. Quotes are great for telling people what happened in ways that no one can compete with. What if someone were writing a report on a famous battle? Including quotes from people who were there would greatly increase the credibility of your report, and show the audience that it was truly like to experience these events.
  3. When it is important to have accurate information. I think that quotes can help your audience understand something more precisely, whether that is an opinion, a recounting of events, or a promise. What they are perfect for is to be used as evidence for supporting or opposing a point, because there is no level of interpretation or reframing in them like there is in a story.

Prophrasing vs. Summary vs. Some examples of quotes.

So now that you have an idea on how to use these three writing activities, let’s take a look at some examples that show phrasing, summarizing, and quoting.

One example is Hamlet Act 3 Scene 1.

That is the question that you are asking. The New Yorker, p. 271.
That is the question that you are asking. The New Yorker, p. 271.


Which one of you is right—to be or not to be? So that is the question.

Is it more noble to suffer?

Slings and arrows from an outrageous fortune.

Or, to take your arms out and fight against a sea of troubles.

So, by opposing them, end them. To be dead, to be asleep.

No more, and sleep will tell us the end.

You will have heartache and thousand natural shocks.

That flesh is an heir to that land, and ’tis a consummation.

Definitely to be wished!

-Hamlet, Act III, Scene 1.


Which one do I choose: To live or die? Is it noble to endure and overcome all the difficulties and disadvantages that life can bring or to end them and, subsequently, your life? To die is to sleep. To be alive is to end the pain and confusion that being alive causes. To be dead is something that we wish for.


Hamlet debates whether he should kill himself. He weighs the pros and cons of remaining alive.

Example #2: Address of Gettysburg in 1863.

Source: Harperstacks
Source: Harperstacks


Some four hundred and seven years ago our fathers brought to us a new nation. The nation was chosen while we were still in freedom, and it was dedicated to the proposition that all people are equal.Now we are engaged in a great civil war to see if that nation, or any other nation, that was so chosen and so dedicated, can endure forever. We are standing on a huge battle-field from that war. We have come to dedicate to them a portion of that field, where some of the people who lived there came to rest and rest. That is the last resting place for those who sacrificed their lives to enable the people of that nation to live. It is entirely appropriate and proper that we do this.

-Abraham Lincoln, 1863


87 Some time ago, our founding fathers created this country based on the principle that all people are equal. Now our country is experiencing a civil war. The result is that it is testing to see whether a country based on such a belief can survive. We are here to dedicate part of this battlefield to the men who died so that our country could continue to march forward. This is something that we should do.


Lincoln invokes the emotions of the people by telling them what the country was founded on. Then he goes on to dedicate land to fallen Civil War soldiers.

Final words.

That is, phrasing, summarizing, and quoting. These are three different ways to process, assess, and incorporate relevant information from other sources into your own work. While it is sometimes difficult to decide when to take each action, with the help of this article and our examples, you should be able to understand what is right to do.