Paraphrasing: Allergic Conditions
To paraphrase a statement is to restate it using different words and/or grammar while keeping the same meaning. You can paraphrase a statement at the same level of language or at a different level, e.g. make the sentence harder or easier than the original. This requires a solid understanding of the concepts and a good range of vocabulary. Being able to express difficult concepts more simply can help your listener. It can also help you to discuss subjects that you understand but cannot yet talk about at a high level of language.
Paraphrasing exercises can be done in writing or orally.
Let’s take the following as a sample statement that can be found in literature on health: There is no end in sight in the battle between human beings and the diseases that can destroy them.
The first step in paraphrasing this statement is to make sure you understand it. You may already know what it means. If not, take a moment to think about the meaning. Do you have to check any words in a dictionary or a thesaurus? Do you have anyone you can ask?
The second step is to brainstorm possible substitutes for the words or phrases contained in the statement. Think about keeping the same level of language, for example:
battle – war
no end in sight – no light at the end of the tunnel
The third step is to construct a sentence containing new words which is grammatically accurate and conveys the same meaning as the original. There may be a number of suitable possibilities. It helps to read the sentence out loud to see if it “makes sense”.
The following is the result of one attempt at paraphrasing our example:
There is no light at the end of the tunnel in the war between people and the illnesses that can wipe them out.
The fourth and final step is to have someone else verify that you have in fact been able to keep the same meaning and that your spelling and grammar are accurate.
Improving this skill
Doing crossword puzzles and reading a wide range of material are two excellent ways to improve your paraphrasing skills.
Hands-on exercise: allergic conditions
You will find six definitions below which relate to allergic conditions. Try to follow the steps outlined above as you paraphrase these sentences. You may choose to change the level of language – just make sure you are consistent. This means that for the purpose of this exercise you should avoid combining high level language with very simple terms.
Possible answers are provided to guide you but, again, there could be many suitable responses. Don’t feel obliged to change every word and change the grammatical structure of the sentence if you wish.
- An allergy is an altered reaction of body tissue to a substance that produces no effect upon a non-sensitive person.
- Some people have food allergies and these are likely to cause skin rashes.
- Others are allergic to airborne particles (inhalants such as dust or pollen).
- Allergies to specific drugs are also common.
- Sometimes allergic reactions can be severe and lead to medical emergencies, especially if they interfere with breathing.
- Of course, the best way to control an allergic condition is to avoid contact with the antigen, if possible.
Source: Tiersky, E.M. (1992) The Language of Medicine in English , Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall, pp. 39-44.