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Writing in your own words activity

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Exercise 1: a poor paraphrase

Read this example of a less successful attempt at paraphrasing this extract, and see if you can identify why this second version doesn't work as well.

When you're ready, comment on why you think the writer was unsuccessful.


Antipasti are served throughout Italy, but the content differs totally from region to region. In the north you'll get an incredible selection of cured meats, like bresaola, prosciutto, coppa di parma and salamis of all shapes and sizes. But in the south you're more likely to be served marinated octopus or sardines or raw anchovies. Like pasta and bread, antipasti are a real signpost for regionality in Italy. Generally they are always served at room temperature. In restaurants and trattorias your drinks will arrive at the table followed first by some olives, then maybe by some sliced meats. As a chef you have to be extremely organised to get everything on the table at once, but in Italy it's tranquillo and you can take your time, as it's expected that little bowls and plates will arrive in flurries.

Probably more than any other menu course in Italy, antipasti can change and adapt to whatever's in season. Take broad beans, for example. They might be boiled and dressed with a little oil and lemon, or mashed up with a little pecorino, mint, lemon juice and good oil. . as long as it tastes nice and reflects the season it's an antipasto.

[An extract from Jamie Oliver's book, Jamie's Italy]

Poor paraphrase

Jamie Oliver explains that antipasti are served throughout Italy. However, he points out that their content tends to change from region to region. In the north, antipasti often take the form of cured meats (for instance, bresaola, prosciutto, coppa di parma and salamis). In contrast, in the south antipasti are more likely to consist of marinated octopus, sardines or raw anchovies. Antipasti, he suggests, are generally served at room temperature and, in restaurants and trattorias, will accompany drinks. The latter will arrive first, followed by, for example, olives and then sliced meats. As this suggests, in Italy there is little expectation that all the food will arrive on the table at once. Rather, people will take their time and bowls and plates will arrive in flurries. Oliver goes on to argue that, more than any other menu course in Italy, antipasti change according to what is in season. For example, broad beans might be boiled and dressed with a little oil and lemon. Alternatively, they might be mashed with pecorino, mint, lemon juice and good oil. Any dish can be served as antipasto, he says, as long as it tastes good and reflects the season.

When you've added your comments, find out why we think the writer was unnsuccessful by clicking 'Reveal our comments'.


You probably didn't have too much difficulty spotting where this second attempt at paraphrasing went wrong.

Most obviously, the authors have failed to put the passage in their own words. Many of the original words remain unchanged and, just as important, the structure of individual sentences and the overall argument are pretty much the same as the original.

Although the passage is written in the third person, there's no reference, so it's impossible for anyone else to identify the source of the ideas.

You may also have noticed that the authors haven't cut out points superfluous to their needs.

Perhaps they felt they needed to cover the full range of the arguments but my guess is it simply reflects a failure to shape the material to the demands of the tasks in hand which was a brief description of antipasti within a longer assignment on Italian food.

Simply keeping most of what was in the original might even mean that the original wasn't really understood.

Although it seems unlikely that the authors were deliberately attempting to pass off the passage as their own work, because it's so close to Jamie Oliver's original it could, with some justification, still be accused of plagiarism and would probably lose marks as a result.

Click Next to go to Exercise 2.