Direct Quotes vs. Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing
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Direct Quotes vs. Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing: Know the Difference

Knowing the differences between direct quotes, paraphrasing, and summarizing is crucial no matter your occupation, from freelance writer to content marketer. Why? Because it can prevent you from accidentally plagiarizing in the work you do for yourself or clients and from breeching best practices.

Incorporating a mixture of these elements in your content can also help you tell a better story so your audience keeps reading.

Direct quotes vs. paraphrasing vs. summarizing — understanding the difference

We’re breaking down what each of these terms means and how you can use them in your writing to make your work more interesting.

Direct Quotes

Direct quotes

Direct quotes include the exact words that someone said, with quotation marks and name attribution. They’re especially common when writing about people.

Example: “Elon Musk said in a tweet that Starlink’s satellite broadband service coverage will be available on ‘most of Earth by end of year,’ although he noted that ‘cellular will always have the advantage in dense urban areas.'”

When to use direct quotes

According to the APA style guide, you’ll need to use direct quotes when:

  • Copying an exact definition
  • The author’s words are memorable and succinct
  • Responding or reacting to someone’s exact words

How to use direct quotes

In general, direct quotes are written verbatim. But you can make these small changes without alerting your readers:

  • Changing the first letter of the quote to an upper or lowercase so that the quotation matches the context sentence’s syntax. Can also modify the punctuation at the end of the quote.
  • Swapping single quotation marks to double quotation marks and vice versa
  • Omitting footnote or endnote number references

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing is when you restate someone else’s words, but not word for word. 

Example (original quote): “It’s risky trusting employees as much as we do. Giving them as much freedom as we do. But it’s essential in creative companies where you have much greater risk from lack of innovation.” — Reed Hastings, Netflix CEO and co-founder

Example (paraphrase): “Netflix’s CEO and co-founder, Reed Hastings, feels that micromanaging workers can stifle innovation in creative businesses.”

When to paraphrase

It can be helpful to paraphrase if you want to keep your writing more conversational. It’s also useful when breaking up direct quotes or explaining the original source in simpler terms. That way, the information better fits the tone and style of your writing.

How to paraphrase

Paraphrasing involves putting a section of the source information entirely into your own words while staying true to its original meaning. You can link to the source in the place that makes the most sense, such as “report” for an industry report. 

You can keep from plagiarizing when paraphrasing by using synonyms for words mentioned in the source. It’s important to restate phrases differently (even if they’re just a few words) to avoid the same sentence structure. If you don’t, you could still be plagiarizing, despite crediting the source. 

If you use exact words from the original material while paraphrasing, you must put the word or words in quotes. The exception is generic terms that are difficult to find synonyms for.

Summarizing

Summarizing

When you summarize, you use your own words to describe the critical points of what someone else said or that you heard or read in a source. 

Example (original quote): “In a diverse population of older patients who were hospitalized for acute decompensated heart failure, an early, transitional, tailored, progressive rehabilitation intervention that included multiple physical-function domains resulted in greater improvement in physical function than usual care.” — Study in the New England Journal of Medicine

Example (summary): “A recent study shows physical rehabilitation programs to be helpful for older populations with hospitalizations from heart failure.”

When to summarize

Summaries are excellent at giving readers the key insights they need from a longer text when proving your point. They also add context while keeping at a manageable length whatever type of article you’re writing.

How to summarize

You don’t need to include any quotes or attribution when summarizing, just a brief overview that often links back to the original material for more details. It may also introduce essential points from the original text, allowing readers to understand the source without clicking through it.

Give credit where credit is due to keep from plagiarizing. Link back to your source when paraphrasing, summarizing, or directly quoting someone, and don’t forget quotation marks for direct quotes. #writing #contentmarketing #editing Click To Tweet

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Lorraine Roberte

About Lorraine

Lorraine Roberte is an experienced personal finance writer living in sunny South Florida. She helps readers make informed decisions about their mortgage, insurance, credit cards, small business finances, and more. Her work has appeared on sites like The Simple Dollar, The Balance, I Will Teach, Reviews.com, and numerous others. Connect with her on LinkedIn.

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