Online English communication skills: Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing vs. Quoting

Online English communication skills: Paraphrasing vs. Summarizing vs. Quoting

Communication skills be it in English or any other language in the workplace are crucial to your success. As an online English speaking course in India, we offer online Business English lessons to many working professionals and job aspirants.

The best online English speaking courses in India will even have an entire segment dedicated towards polishing English communication skills. The primary communication skills are speaking, listening, reading and writing (applicable to all languages).

Many working professionals enroll to our courses and practice English speaking with our online English tutors. With a series of cleverly structured lessons and assignments, our online English teachers use conversational lessons to guide our students towards fluency. Written assignments are used to check English grammar, English vocabulary as well writing styles.

A recurrent theme amongst most of our learners is the lack of clarity when it comes business communication in the work place. This is commonly observed amongst all online spoken English courses! In today’s social age, our conversations are impulsive and extremely spontaneous. The fine line between a formal versus as informal response is blurring.

With the vast amount of “over-sharing” most individuals are confused when we ask them what great correspondence means. And the confusion is more rampant when it comes to writing skills!

Common communication techniques:

There are three techniques that are often used to support an argument or call attention to something. Quoting, paraphrasing and summarizing are three common techniques that allow a writer to incorporate another writer's work into their own work. Paraphrasing and summarising requires analytical and writing skills and helps to develop understanding and interpretation of the major ideas of one’s discipline. Let’s study the three concepts in detail and find out when each one of them is used.


Quotations are and should be similar in every way to the original. It is most effective when you use them to comment on the particular wording of the original text. When quoting, jot down the exact words in the original document and put those words in quotation marks (" "). After the quotation, there will always be an in-text citation attributing it to the primary source.

When to Quote?

When you’re thinking about quoting someone in your writing, keep the following things in mind:

  1. When you need to highlight the specific words of the original author
  2. When writing about literature and providing textual evidence from the poem, story, etc.
  3. When providing a definition
  4. When a statement seems more convincing coming directly from the source
  5. When a main phrase would be somewhere lost in a paraphrase
  6. When you want to disagree with an author’s argument
  7. When comparing and contrasting specific points of view

How to Quote?

There are two ways to incorporate the source:

Single Phrase- When you are using the author’s name in your own narrative, and using their words or idea into a sentence

Direct Quotation – When you are using the words or ideas of the source independently and adding the author’s name in the in-text citation.

Example 1- Randler (2009) states that late risers have “a high misalignment of social and biological time” which results in a mismatch between their natural schedules and the normal workday (p. 2793). - Example of Single Phrase

Example 2- “People with a high misalignment of social and biological time may be less able to act in a proactive manner, probably because of sleep delay” (Randler, 2009, p. 2793). - Example of Direct Quotation

It is clear that while quoting, you need to include the words and ideas of others in your text exactly as they have expressed them. As per the scholars, Graff and Birkenstein (2014), when you are inserting a quotation in your writing “you need to insert it into what we like to call a ‘quotation sandwich,’ with the statement introducing it serving as the top slice of bread, following the explanation serving as the bottom slice” (p. 46). The reader can see the source that you have referenced and also understands how this quotation supports your overall argument through this method.


Paraphrasing is stating an idea or passage in your own words, fully communicating the original meaning. A paraphrase must also be attributed to the original source. Paraphrased material is usually shorter than the original passage, as the users try to write it in their own language and not use the exact words of the author.

When to Paraphrase?

  1. When you want to elucidate a short passage from a text
  2. When you want to describe the main points of a passage
  3. When you want to explain a point where exact wording is not required
  4. When you want to avoid overusing quotations
  5. When you want to report numerical data or statistics

How to Paraphrase?

Always remember to not use paraphrasing software as it can create meaningless communications. Read and understand the text carefully. Put the original text aside and write your paraphrase in your own words. Consider each point of the original text and try rephrasing it in your own words. After rephrasing, read and review your paraphrase. It should reflect the original text in your own words and include all the important information and major points.

For Example- As stated by Nickerson (1999: 737): “In order to communicate effectively with other people, one must have a reasonably accurate idea of what they do and do not know that is pertinent to the communication. Treating people as though they have knowledge that they do not have can result in miscommunication and perhaps embarrassment. On the other hand, a fundamental rule of conversation, at least according to a Gricean view, is that one generally does not convey to others information that one can assume they already have.”

Here’s how you can paraphrase the above lines: Nickerson's idea tells us about effective communication. He specifies that effective communication depends on the accurate knowledge of what the audience is aware of. In the second sentence, the writer feels that the audience might misunderstand if the speaker has too much knowledge. (Nickerson 1999: 737).

This is an example of a successful paraphrase because the writer has understood and comprehended the ideas depicted by Nickerson, and is able to put them into his own words, giving him due credit.


Summarizing is putting the main ideas into your own words, including only the main point(s). It is necessary to attribute summarized ideas to the original source. Summaries are usually shorter than the original and take an overall view of the source material.

When to Summarize?

  1. When you want to provide an overview of a topic
  2. When you want to put forward the main ideas of a single source
  3. When you want explain matter (from several sources) about a topic

How to Summarize?

Start by reading the text and highlighting the main points in the text. While reading, make notes of the main points and rewrite your notes in your own words. Restate the major idea at the beginning of your summary including all major points with the conclusion. Don’t forget to Include an in-text citation.

For Example- “Students frequently overuse direct quotation in taking notes, and as a result they overuse quotations in the final [research] paper. Probably only about 10% of your final manuscript should appear as directly quoted matter. Therefore, you should strive to limit the amount of exact transcribing of source materials while taking notes.” Lester, James D. Writing Research Papers. 2nd ed. (1976): 46-47.

Here’s how you can summarize the above lines: Students should take just a few notes in direct quotation from sources in order to reduce the amount of quoted material in a research paper (Lester 46-47).

Once you have knowledge of quoted, summarized and paraphrased passages from research sources, you’ll be able to build your own document without plagiarism.

Contributed By- Anjana Dutta

Related Article: Speaking English the right way | Pauses to improve English speaking | Impromptu and Persuasive Speech| Formal and Informal English conversations


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