How to Rephrase a Sentence

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

If you are working to make your writing clearer, you may have to go through and rephrase your sentences. In this lesson, we will take a look at some of the ways you can rephrase your sentences as well as some of the reasons why you should rephrase your sentences.

Why Rephrase?

If your teacher wrote in super angry red letters the words 'Unclear' or 'Awkward' on your recent essay, you might want to rephrase some of your sentences. You might even want to rephrase a sentence that you wrote through a text message or e-mail. Yes, being a good writer extends to 'the real world.' So if you text 'K L8r' to your grandmother (who would be pretty rad for using texting in the first place) she might respond with the following: 'To whom it may concern, I apologize for the inconvenience, but I do not quite grasp the full meaning of what you are writing here.' In this instance, you will need to rephrase your sentence and consider your audience (your grandmother). Similarly, you might even explain to your grandmother that she can rephrase her sentences to be less formal as well.

Rephrasing for Clarity

One of the first ways to rephrase a sentence is to make in clearer. If you read something you wrote aloud and realize that you have written an unclear sentence, you can rephrase it for clarity. Additionally, if you wrote an essay, letter or message and your recipient flat out tells you that they don't understand, this is also a good time to edit for clarity.

Explain it to Your Buddy

One of the best ways to do this is to read the sentence once and then set it aside. Do not look at it. Then ask yourself, 'What am I trying to say with that sentence'? Instead of repeating the sentence, pretend that you are simply explaining the idea of the sentence to a friend. Chances are, your more relaxed sentence will be clearer. This is because when we write, we are sometimes too focused on 'sounding professional.' We try to use vocabulary that is unnatural so that we sound fancy. This can work against us.


_Paraphrasing_ is when you take what someone else wrote or said and rephrase it using different words. Another reason you might want to rephrase a sentence is if you are using a resource. For example, if you are writing a research paper, you may find a really good comment or idea in another author's article, book or interview. If you want to use their comment, you can put quotes around it and cite the source. Sometimes, the way that the author wrote the sentence does not flow with your own writing, and you will want to rephrase what they said so that it sounds more natural.

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