Robots writing: Why Artificial Intelligence can bolster but not (yet) replace human writing.


Artificial intelligence (AI) in copywriting shows promise, but it also presents perils to organizations that don’t understand its limitations.
Although writers live in fear of the day that robots will take over their jobs (much like everyone else: McKinsey and Company estimates that about 30% of the activities in 60% of all occupations could be automated), businesses themselves are probably counting down the days until they have tireless content generators that can perform their least-liked tasks – writing reports, presentations, sales copy, etc. – at low, robot-approved prices.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. Goldman Sachs may have invested tens of millions of dollars in automated copywriting startup Persado last year, but Persado is a long way from killing off any form of business writing. Persado focuses primarily on content for online advertising campaigns. Co-founder Assaf Baciu tells TechCrunch, “We’ve run 4,000 campaigns and our average uplift on conversion rates is 49.5%.”
That is impressive, but writing ad copy for Facebook is a far cry from writing an in-depth white paper or technical report. At this point, as Baciu says, “We’re not here about displacing, we’re here about enhancing.”
Therein lies the true potential of AI copywriting (for now). While it’s true that Google’s AlphaGo AI beat the world’s best Go player, achieving proficiency at a rules-based strategy game (even one as intricate as Go) is a different beast from mastering the emotion, creativity, and psychology that goes into the best business writing.
Instead, today’s smart business writing tools are better suited to supporting human writers.
In fact, most people are already using AI to strengthen their writing, even if they don’t realize it. The current iteration of Microsoft Word comes bundled with a proofreading editor that’s powered by machine-learning technologies. Microsoft Editor is designed to work like spellcheck on steroids; for instance, it uses Bing’s “Smart Graph” technology to identify poor word choices based on context.
Other smart business writing tools, often available as online services, can also parse content like emails or business reports and make suggestions to improve not just spelling and grammar but also reader engagement and impact.
However, over-reliance on these tools may worsen writing. One journalist documented his experience with Hemingway (named after the iconic author), one of the more popular smart proofreading/editing programs. Hemingway uses natural language processing and rudimentary AI, but the author found the tool fell back on simplistic rules that stripped his writing of his unique voice and turned his sentences choppy.
Smart writing tools undoubtedly have their place; here’s a sampling of such services if you’d like to take a peek. Just don’t expect them to turn you into the next Hemingway or to replace you. As Baciu says, content automation today is more about working with human-produced content to make it stronger than replacing humans with robot-created writing. People are still the wordsmiths.
About Hurley Write, Inc.
Hurley Write, Inc., a certified women-owned small business (WBENC and WOSB), has been designing and teaching customized onsite and online technical, business, and scientific writing courses for over 25 years. We also develop and teach specialty courses, such as how to write proposals standard operating procedures (SOPs), and deviation and investigation reports, and how to prepare and give great presentations.
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