How to write vibrant copy

Do you think plain language means dumbing down what you want to say? The opposite is true. It’s easier to write convoluted than concise text.

Plain language is more than substituting difficult words with easier ones; it involves sentence structure, logic and consideration for your reader. Why use plain language? In multicultural South Africa it’s vital to communicate for understanding.

Writing tips - BOSASA

  1. Use active, not passive, voice

In active sentences (active voice) someone does something; in passive sentences (passive voice) something is being done to someone. See the difference:

Passive voice – weak Active voice – vibrant
Young people are trained by the Moses Kotane municipality in Mpumalanga to build houses. The Moses Kotane municipality in Mpumalanga trains young people to build houses.


  1. Use verbs rather than noun forms

Noun form (nominalisation) – weak and clumsy Verb – vibrant
plan for the completion of complete, plan to complete …
announced the introduction of introduced …
brought about the improvement of improved …
undertook the arrangement of arranged
focus on an investigation of investigate


  1. Replace clumsy phrases with vibrant words

Clumsy phrase Vibrant solution
a large number of many
as a result of because
at an early date soon
at the end of the day finally, in the end
at this moment in time now, right now
because of the fact that because, since
despite the fact that although, even though
due to the fact that because
in excess of more than
in proximity to near
in spite of the fact that despite, although
in view of the fact that because, as
owing to the fact that because, since
until such time as until
you are requested please


  1. Do not say the same thing twice

Pleonasm means using superfluous words, as in “the tiny little child”. Tautology means repeating a meaning that has already been conveyed.

Pleonasm, tautology Use either one or the other
can be able to can OR be able to
for example …, etc. for example … OR …, …, … etc.
10am in the morning 10:00 OR 10am OR 10 o’clock in the morning
comprise of comprise OR consist of
more especially especially


  1. Divide long, convoluted sentences into two or more sentences

Convoluted Concise
To involve the youth in housing programmes, there is a youth internship programme targeting students heading for construction-related qualifications, offering bursaries to seven of them in 2015. A youth internship programme gives young people the chance to become involved in housing. This programme targets construction students. Seven students received bursaries in 2015.

The secret of vibrant writing is to revise and edit what you’ve written. Use this post as a checklist; then eliminate these sins. Your readers will thank you for it. Even better, they’ll understand what you’re trying to say.


Marina Pearson

Marina Pearson

Marina Pearson communicates knowledge with easy clarity. She is gifted at presenting a wealth of information and wise counsel in friendly language illuminated with practical examples, fun worksheets and real-life stories.
Having worked in the South African publishing industry for decades, she has edited, proofread, translated and indexed a wide range of publications, from academic and educational texts to business and general non-fiction books. Her expert skills at editing – and often rewriting – manuscripts for publication prompted an international publisher to commission her first textbook, on tourism. Since then she has written textbooks on marketing and life skills. In addition to Love Being You, she has six books in print with combined sales of over 150 000 to date.
Marina Pearson

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