Is AI the answer? Why we’re not convinced – yet

AI is everywhere right now. It answers your questions when you book a holiday. It’s writing essays for harried uni students. For all you know, it could be writing this blog right now.

ChatGPT has been all over the news lately, along with a lot of pretty wild speculation. While it’s amazing that it can write 2000 intelligible words in five minutes (jealous), we’re not sure it’s ready to put us out of a job just yet. Humans may be slower and more prone to typos, but people still feel an instinctive connection to human writing – flaws and all.

Of course, we’re not saying AI isn’t useful – quite the opposite. Used in the right places with the right human inputs, it can be an incredibly helpful tool for streamlining your content writing process.

Here’s where AI can help – and where those pesky humans will still be necessary.

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AI: the upsides

New ideas faster

AI can quickly generate a list of blog or article ideas (often the hardest part of making a content plan). You just need a human to sift through and pull out the ones most relevant to your business. It can also help you work out what not to write. Because the tech scrapes content from the internet, it’s likely to come up with topics that have been done to death by other businesses. Get ChatGPT to generate a list of 10 blog topics about marketing, for example, and you can see the topics that have been well covered by your competition. Eliminate those, and you’re on track to stand out from the content crowd.

Another eye on your work

Full disclosure: we use AI proofing tools to finesse our writing. While they’re not perfect, tools like Grammarly are a godsend for picking up those tiny mistakes that the human brain skims over. They’ll pull up transposed words, missed commas and word-use errors in a way older spellcheckers can’t. Even better, they can flag overly complicated sentences and tone issues.

As with anything AI-driven, you do need a human to double-check the tool suggestions – don’t just accept everything. Use a text editing tool enough, and you’ll notice that some suggestions completely change the meaning of your sentence, while others end up odd and clunky.

Writer’s block busters

The blank page can be scary for writers – you know what you have to say, but you just don’t know where to start. An AI writing tool like ChatGPT can help you get around this problem by putting some words – any words – on that endless white page. Prompt the tool to come up with an opening paragraph or first section and use it as a jumping-off point for your piece. Even if the AI-generated content is completely off, it could spark an idea that helps you get started (and, if nothing else, it means you’ll have something on the page).

Why the human factor still matters  

Factual errors and assumptions

AI is only as good as the information it pulls in – and, as we all know, the internet is rife with misinformation and straight-up untruths. Like a teen writing a last-minute essay on Henry the Eighth, AI doesn’t dig into the credibility of a source. Instead, it replicates the information it finds and hopes for the best. This means when you use an AI tool to generate a piece of writing, you need to check it for mistakes – it’s not a great look if your business makes major errors in your area of expertise.

Lack of human intuition

After a lifetime of reading, writing and talking, most humans have a sixth sense for grammar rules and awkward phrasing, even if they can’t necessarily explain why a sentence sounds ‘wrong’. AI doesn’t have that advantage. It knows the rules of grammar and it’s read plenty of writing, but it can’t parse sentence structures or phrasing in the same way a human brain can. That’s why AI writing tools will write sentences that sound a bit odd, and AI editors will offer suggestions that make your writing clunky and awkward.

One writer, one voice

Think about the most interesting, funny or insightful writing you’ve read. Is it great because it’s perfectly grammatical or because it has a strong voice? A risk that comes with AI is the stripping out of personality and freshness and ending up with homogenous, bland and fundamentally uninteresting writing. If your writing sounds exactly like everything else on the internet, it won’t grab your customers or help you build a brand identity.

There are also issues around the type of ‘voice’ and language that end up being highlighted. If AI draws from dominant online voices, will it inadvertently promote and replicate wealthy, white, educated language patterns while other types of speech are erased? Of course, it’s not up to your business to solve problems like systemic racism and the devaluing of voices outside the mainstream, but it’s worth noting. And If your audience comes from those groups, it’s even more important to be aware of the issues.

A tool, not a solution

AI can be incredibly helpful for idea generation, editing and getting around writer’s block, but it’s a tool, not a replacement for a copywriter. It doesn’t have the intuition for language and unique voice that comes with a real-live writer – and that’s before you get into the mistakes and errors that come with pulling content from the internet. AI has us beat on speed, but we’re still ahead on quality and connection.  

Want 20 blogs written and edited by COB? AI’s your guy. Want content that helps you connect with your audience on a human level? Yeah, you’re still going to have to work with people.

And that’s where we come in. Need a human voice behind your blog, website, or ads? Get in touch now.

Jemima McKenzie-Higgott