Paraphrasing vs. Rewriting: How They Differ & Why It Matters.

Explore the difference between paraphrasing and rewriting, especially in the academic context. Understand their impact on your content and why it's essential for effective communication in scholarly pursuits.


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Dr. Krishna Kumar Venkitachalam

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Understanding the Differences: Copyediting vs. Rewriting in Academic Writing

Have you ever wondered about the differences between the terms copyediting and rewriting in the context of academic writing? If so, you've come to the right place. In this episode of the Trinka podcast, we will explore the often confused terms paraphrasing and rewriting. We will define these terms, examine their differences, provide examples, and discuss their use cases. Knowing these distinctions is crucial for researchers seeking to improve their paraphrasing skills and avoid plagiarism. Additionally, we will clarify the boundaries between copy editing, substantive editing, and rewriting, as they belong to different realms of the writing process.

Definition of Paraphrasing and Rewriting

Paraphrasing, as defined by, involves summing up or clarifying a statement by rephrasing it. The goal of paraphrasing is to retain the original meaning while making the text more readable, understandable, or tailored to specific audiences. It does not involve changing the structure or order of the original text. On the other hand, rewriting means starting from scratch and completely changing the sentence or order of text to convey the same meaning in a different way. This process often involves wholesale changes of words, phrases, and sentence structures to create a new version of the text.

Exploring the Differences

To further dissect the differences between paraphrasing and rewriting, let's summarize them in a list format:


  • Uses the same or similar words with or without revisions in word or phrase order
  • Aims to simplify the text and retain the original meaning
  • Makes the text more suitable for specific audiences
  • Does not change the target audience


  • Uses different words and phrases, resulting in a revision of thought order or narrative
  • Modifies or changes the content, often with different meanings or stresses
  • Makes the text more appropriate for audiences and allows for changing the target audience
  • Can change the target audience, unlike paraphrasing


To illustrate these differences, let's consider a hypothetical paper abstract and two versions of its paraphrased form, as well as a rewritten version. In the paraphrased versions, changes are made in phrase and word order, while the narrative remains more or less the same. The rewritten version, however, completely overhauls the arguments, narrative structure, and writing style, likely targeting a different audience.

Use Cases

Now, let's explore how these terms can be used in the context of academic writing:


  • Ideal for later phases of the writing process, synonymous with milder revisions, editing, and proofreading
  • Commonly employed to avoid plagiarism and clarify or distil the meaning of text
  • Occasionally used to adhere to word count limitations by using shorter words or phrases


  • Best suited for the initial phases of the writing process, such as improving the first draft of an academic research paper
  • Useful for enhancing the impact and vision of the paper
  • Allows for changing the position of arguments, approaching issues from different angles, and catering to different audiences
  • Can be used to change narrative types, such as transforming an original article into a brief communication
  • Helps adapt the writing style to suit the needs of specific geographies
  • May be employed to meet extreme word count limitations when changing manuscript types, potentially involving content deletions and addressing transition gaps through narrative changes.


In academic writing, understanding the differences between paraphrasing and rewriting is crucial. Paraphrasing involves using the same or similar words to retain the original meaning, while rewriting entails starting from scratch to create a new version with potentially different meanings or stresses. Paraphrasing is commonly used to avoid plagiarism, while rewriting allows for significant changes in content, target audience, and narrative style. By mastering these techniques, researchers can

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