funky phone

Paraphrase Craze

A Lesson in Expository Writing

    It was an average day in the town of Wordville. A girl named Perry Fraze was working on a homework assignment with her friend Lexa.  They were stumped, and they decided to call their friend Booker for help. 

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Perry and a friend Lexa doing their homework    "Hi, Booker, this is Perry;  Lexa and I are working on the homework for Ms. Goodword.  It's the paraphrase of The Tell-Tale Heart Can you help me?"

Booker on the phone

   "Oh hi, Perry.  Yes, I started that homework at school because it was giving me trouble. Ms. Goodward gave me a lot of pointers.  I'll be glad to help you with the assignment."

Perry is going to find out that this problem is trickier than she ever could have imagined.  Let's see if you can offer any help throughout the course of this lesson.

Do you recognize the story, The Tell-Tale Heart?

Click either
Yes or No
for your choice.

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Booker on the phone

       "I actually enjoyed completing Ms. Goodward's homework. It turns out that the author, Edgar Allan Poe, was a really cool guy.
     First of all, what do you understand  about the assignment?"    

     "Well, I understand that we are supposed to paraphrase an excerpt from that Poe guy's short story.  And I think paraphrasing is just writing down the main idea of what I read.   Is that right?"

Perry on the phone

What do you think?  Is Perry's definition of paraphrasing correct?


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     "Paraphrasing is more than that, Perry. I think you may be getting it, but don't get it confused with summarizing or quoting.  Let me tell you about it. Booker on the phone

     Paraphrasing is restating the idea in your own words.  It can be about the same length or even longer than the original passage.

     Summarizing is restating only the main points of the passage in your own words. It is very brief.

     Quoting is using the exact words of the author of the passage. It gives the author credit for those words.


Let's try working through the next example, Perry. It is one of the original passages from The Tell-Tale Heart by Poe that we have to paraphrase for our homework."

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"I kept quite still and said nothing.  For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down.  He was still sitting up in the bed listening, --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall."

     Now here are three different recastings of that passage.    Booker explained that it is easy to confuse a paraphrase with a summary or a quotation.  Look at these three choices and help Perry label each example. 

Stained glass 1

"I kept quite still and said nothing.  For a whole hour I did not move a muscle, and in the meantime I did not hear him lie down.  He was still sitting up in the bed listening, --just as I have done, night after night, hearkening to the death watches in the wall."
Click on the drop-down Scroll down arrow arrow for your choices.

Stained glass 2

For an hour, I kept very still and never heard him lie down.  He was listening to the deathwatch beetles in the wall as I have done before.
Click on the drop-down Scroll down arrow arrow for your choices.

Stained glass 3

For the whole hour, I was completely still.  I never heard him lie down.  He was sitting up listening to the sounds in the wall that made him feel as if something was terribly wrong.   I have done this myself many times before.
Click on the drop-down Scroll down arrow arrow for your choices.

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          "See, Perry. I have the scoop on the assignment.  I told you I could help.
     Paraphrasing is to restate in another form or in other words.  Here is how I would do this assignment.
     Booker on the phone
Stained glass 1  

I'd read the stuff I need to paraphrase carefully.

Stained glass 2 

Then I would put the book down, and write down what I think the dude is trying to say.  Ms. Goodward said to ask this question--What is the intended message for the reader?  When I finish, the new version must be my own words. It has to sound like me and NOT like the old guy writing this stuff.

Stained glass 3 

And I really hate this part, but I've got to do it.  I would check my work.  I would ask myself, 'Is my rendition getting across the important ideas that Poe communicated in his work?' "


     "Wow, Booker.  You really do have a handle on this stuff. 
Let me try it one time before you get off the phone, okay?"

Perry on the phone
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This is Poe's original passage.  Let's see what Perry does with it.

The door leading to the crime  

"Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door.  A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine."

Perry wrote this attempt at paraphrasing in her notebook. 
Read it, and decide if you think she was successful.


Perry's Paraphrase

What do you think?  Was she successful?

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  "That was great Perry, but there is still a problem with your version.   Listen up.
     When we are using literature or someone else's writing for our work, we have to avoid plagiarism."
Booker on the phone
Perry again      "No way, Booker.  This is getting crazy.  What in the world is plagiarism?" 
Booker again      "You're right Perry.  This is crazy if you aren't with it.  With some more crucial practice, you'll get it!    
     Plagiarism is when a writer copies words directly from an author without telling where they got them.  Perry, it is almost like stealing.

      Take a look at your paraphrase. You can tell that you used the author's way of talking.  Some of your sentences look exactly like his. That is plagiarism."

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Review Perry's attempt at paraphrasing.  Compare it with the original passage, and see if you can find the specific words that Perry copied exactly from Poe.

Perry's Paraphrase  

Poe's Original Text

"Upon the eighth night I was more than usually cautious in opening the door.  A watch's minute hand moves more quickly than did mine."


What are some words Perry copied exactly from Edgar Allan Poe?
Type your answers in the box to the right backarrow.gif (1254 bytes).

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Booker on the phone

Perry again

     "Perry, just remember that when paraphrasing you are really adding yourself to the writing or whatever.  You add your perspective or your point of view to the writing. What ends up in the writing is your own understanding of the passage AND especially your own words. 
     EVEN MORE COOL, is the fact that you and I can have totally different paraphrases, but if they follow all the rules, they can both be correct."
Booker again      "Try it again Perry.  Look at this next example.  See if you can paraphrase this cool little passage from Poe."
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     "It was open, wide, wide open, and I grew furious as I gazed upon it.  I saw it with perfect distinctness -- all a dull blue with a hideous veil over it that chilled the very marrow in my bones, but I could see nothing else of the old man's face or person, for I had directed the ray as if by instinct upon"

   The eye chilled him to the bone!

Take a look at Perry's second attempt.  She has figured out that the person telling the story is a murderer, but she still has problems with her paraphrase. 
See if you can spot it before Booker points it out for her.

Perry's 2nd try at paraphrasing  

What did you find wrong with
Perry's 2nd try?

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Booker talking

     "That was good, Perry.  There is one snag with it, though.  You've got to remember never to mess with what the author is trying to say.  I think you misunderstood one of Poe's lines, and that made you mess up his meaning in your version.""
Perry writing      "Yeah, Booker.  There was one line that confused me.  The language that Poe guy uses is strange, and it sent me for a loop.   I was confused when it said . . .
"... that chilled the very marrow in my bones."

     Is that the passage I crashed and burned on?"

Booker talking
  "Yeah. Poe meant that the murderer was totally creeped out when he saw the evil eye. Try your paraphrase one more time; it should be perfect now.    
     And oh, I know what you mean about Poe's way of speaking.  See, he was a writer in the 1800s, and his words are far out.  You ought to look into him sometime.  He was a wild guy.  He created the modern detective story, he wrote all kinds of horror stories and poetry, and to top it all off, he died a mysterious death.  Read up on him if you ever get the chance." 
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Perry talking      "I just might do that, Booker.  But, I want to give this paraphrasing thing one more try while I still have you on the phone.  Check this out."

Click here   to see Poe's original again.


Perry's third attempt at a paraphrase

What did you find wrong with Perry's 3rd try?


       Click on "Did you know?" to discover more cool stuff about Edgar Allan Poe.

Did you know?

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This person obviously got some wrong instructions.      "You have got it, Perry.  It is just as important that you DO NOT mess up an author's meaning as it is that you DO change their words. 

Booker on the phone again

   Think about it like this. Imagine that you're giving directions.  When you put those directions in your own words, you don't want to leave anything out.  Someone could get lost or even hurt."
Perry writing in her notebook      "Wow, Booker.  You have really been a great help on this assignment. But honestly, what is all this paraphrasing good for?"
     "Well, Perry there are a ton of benefits to this kind of thinking.  Here are some examples that Ms. Goodward gave me when I said the same thing: Booker--is he cool or what?
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Point #1 The tough thinking required for paraphrasing makes sure that you understand the full meaning of the reading.
Point # 2 A lot of times, paraphrasing is needed to understand language that is old or confusing.   Remember the comment you made about Poe, Perry? 
{Click the phone to see Perry's comments about Poe's language.} Cell Phone
Point # 3 Paraphrasing can help spiff up your writing. A lot of times the paraphrase will be more detailed than a summary since you must include the author's message behind the words.
Point # 4 When writing a research paper for science or some other class, paraphrasing someone else's words and citing the source can add power to your own words.
Point # 5 Writers can argue a point by giving several different  views on a subject.   Sometimes paraphrasing those viewpoints is crucial.
Point # 6 This one is the bomb, Perry.  Paraphrasing will make you a FAB writer. It adds something of yours to the writing--your perspective, your point of view, or your understanding."

Of all the reasons listed above, what do you think was Ms. Goodword's purpose for having Perry and the other students complete this paraphrasing activity?

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Booker is the bomb!      "You've got it, Perry. Before I go, let me tell you one more cool thing. There is an author named Brod Bagert that wrote a book that excerpts some of Poe's most famous poetry and short stories.  He even does some lines from The Tell Tale Heart.  Give it a look sometime, okay?"
Perry writing      "Yeah, Booker, I think I will do that.  Now that I understand this assignment, I am beginning to like this Poe guy, too.             
     I really appreciate all of your help.   Can I call you if I get stuck again?"

     "Not a problem, Perry.  Call me anytime you like."

Booker again
The Tell-Tale Heart

Click on the heart to see Brod Bagert's excerpt from the "The Tell-Tale Heart."

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Paraphrasing can become crazy. Just look at all the different ways there are to put something in your own words.

Paraphrase craze

   Before we leave, try your hand at a few more of these to see if you are paraphrasing PRO when it comes to POE.Try paraphrasing this sentence from Poe's story.
Click on the choice you believe to be a correct paraphrase.

This is the original passage. He is explaining that he heard another sound and knew it.

"I knew that sound well too."


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     Try paraphrasing this sentence from Poe's story. This sentence is a little more difficult.  Here is the original passage.

"There entered three men, who introduced themselves, with perfect suavity, as officers of the police."       

Suave police officer

Click on the police car to select the paraphrase you believe to be correct.    

Squad car #1  

Three guys entered and explained themselves to be police officers.

Squad car #2  

Three men entered and introduced themselves very suavely as police officers.

Squad car #3  

Three police officers entered and  politely explained who they were.

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Booker's cell phone AGAIN!  Oh, no!

Uh, oh!  It looks like Booker is getting on the phone again.  We had better get out of here before this thing REALLY gets crazy!  

BUT, before we leave, let's review what we have learned during this "paraphrase craze."


Paraphrasing point # 1

Paraphrasing is putting it in your own words.

Paraphrasing point # 2      To paraphrase--read carefully.  Then set the material aside and change what was read into new words. Remember there is no wrong answer if you follow the rules.
Paraphrasing point # 3      Avoid plagiarism at all costs.
Paraphrasing point # 4     
Keep the message of the author in your translation even if it requires more words than the original.


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Try paraphrasing this last passage of Poe's to make sure you understand this paraphrase craze.  

The storyteller

"How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story."


Now think about how you would put that in your own words.  Then follow the directions below to review one way Poe's words could be paraphrased.

Click on the same sentence to the right to discover a correct paraphrase. How then am I mad? Hearken! and observe how healthily, how calmly, I can tell you the whole story.

If you aced this lesson, you might want browse more lessons in expository writing. Check them out by finding the title for these lessons on the Beacon Web site. 

Information Elimination

Information Elimination

Trailblazing Lessons 1 and 2

The Trailblazing Series

Bibliography Blunders Bibliography Blunders 

When you are finished with this lesson, click on the gray bar below to escape this lesson!

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All definition information from Microsoft Bookshelf. CD-ROM .United States: Microsoft Corporation., 1996