In other words…

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The usually excellent Jonathan Bailey has, I fear, fallen short of excellence in his latest post in the WriteCheck blog.

Granted, he upholds that standard in much of the post – How to paraphrase. It is good advice – but there is, to my mind, one vital notion missing.

He gives a three-step guide to good paraphrase: read and understand what you are reading, put it aside and don’t look at it again, then note or write fully what you remember as most important, the “key points.”

Bailey does not define “key points.” I would make the point that what is key may well depend on your purpose, why you want to make those points, why you think they are important and worth noting.

That is a minor point. The big point I think he has missed is that, if the ideas are not your own, however much you change the structure and the words, you still need to attribute the source of those ideas.  You might not need a perfectly formatted APA or MLA style citation – especially if you are not writing an academic paper, but honesty requires an attribution of some kind, an acknowledgement that these are not your ideas. If you wish to establish authority, the attribution is essential.

I am also not sure of the accuracy or wisdom of his statement: “If you’ve paraphrased correctly none of the original words will remain, just the information and ideas.”  Surely there are some words which you just cannot change lest you lose or change the connotations and the meaning, words such as “sugar” or “tobacco,” “cricket” or “Canada” or “Jonathan Bailey”? To demand complete use of own words is, I think, misleading and confusing.

Not one of Jonathan Bailey’s better posts, I fear.

[I started to write this as a comment to his post, but I found that to do so I needed a SquareSpace account – and I did not like their Terms and Conditions. So, sorry, Jonathan, a separate post on a different platform. If you’d care to comment here, please do.]

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