AI writing software is a type of technology that can generate text based on a given topic, keyword, or prompt. The rap is that it can help you write faster, easier, and better, by providing you with content ideas, research, summaries, outlines, and drafts. It can also help you optimize your content for SEO, readability, and engagement, by using keywords, headings, bullet points, and other elements.
But does it really do all that? Not in my experience, at least not all of it and not all the time. I have no doubt that others will find it does, and I think your evaluation will depend a lot on your purpose.
And should people who call themselves authors use it?
AI is not perfect, and it has its limitations and drawbacks. It can also pose some ethical and legal issues, such as plagiarism, bias, and misinformation. In this blog post, I’ll share some of the pros and cons of using AI to write content and some of the strategies that can help you use it effectively and responsibly.
Where AI writing software fails
AI is not a magic tool that can write anything and everything for you. It’s a tool that can assist you, but not replace you. Some of the limitations of using AI for writing you should be aware of are:
AI tends to sound like AI
AI writing software is based on algorithms and data, and it lacks the human touch and voice that make your content unique and authentic. AI also tends to use formal, technical, or generic language (even when you ask it to use a casual voice), making your content sound like an AI wrote it. That can reduce your credibility and trustworthiness – unless you end it by saying the article was AI generated.
AI writing software can be repetitive and wordy
I found that often (in my experience) the test written by AI tends to repeats the same information or idea many times, usually in slightly different ways, and even in consecutive sentences. This is terrible writing because it makes your content boring and confusing. I wonder how many businesses are happily putting out such articles thinking they must be good because an AI wrote it!
AI writing software is also really good at stating the obvious and overwriting. They will write things that are already obvious from the writing and say what they’re going to talk about, then talk about it and then repeat what they talked about, just in case we didn’t already get it!
It can give you misinformation or leave out important points
AI is not a reliable source of information, and it can give you inaccurate, outdated, or incomplete information. AI writing software can also miss or ignore some of the key points or aspects of your topic, and your content can be misleading, irrelevant, or superficial.
AI writing software can contribute to stereotypes
AI writing software is influenced by the data and sources it uses, and it can reflect and reinforce their biases and stereotypes. AI can also use inappropriate, offensive, or harmful language, and unless you are aware of conscious language choices and check and edit carefully, your content can be insensitive, discriminatory, or harmful to your audience or others. I don’t advise using it to write on any sensitive topic.
AI writers can overpopulate your content with keywords
AI can help you optimize your content for SEO by using keywords that match your topic and audience. However, AI can also overuse or misuse keywords, basically stuffing your content with keywords, making it sound unnatural at best, and spammy at worst.
AI writing software may not be trained on the language conventions you use
AI can help you improve your grammar, spelling, punctuation, and style, by using the rules and guidelines that it learned, but it may not be familiar or compatible with the language conventions that you use, such as the Chicago Manual of Style. In this case it can confuse you and your content can end up being incorrect, or incompatible with your style guide. I’ve tried a few AI writers, and I often had to correct things that didn’t follow the CMS conventions that I use – unless I’m editing for a UK or Commonwealth-based author.
Just as with Word, if you’re working to the latest version of the Chicago Manual of Style, don’t trust the punctuation.
How AI writing software can be helpful
AI is not a bad tool that you should avoid completely. It’s a useful tool that can help streamline your writing process when writing blog posts and other non-fiction. (Please don’t use it for anything creative like writing a novel!) Here are some of the benefits you can take advantage of:
AI writing software can help you find and collect relevant information and sources for your topic, by using keywords, queries, and filters. It can also help you cite and reference your sources, by using formats and styles that you choose.
AI writing software can help you create concise and clear summaries of your topic, information, or sources. It can also help you create summaries for different purposes and audiences, such as abstracts, introductions, conclusions, or social media posts.
But remember that social media works best when people are being authentic, as in being themselves, so once you get your content from an AI, you’ll need to rewrite it in your own style. I tried using an AI writer for Instagram caption ideas, and I found myself deleting most of what it suggested because it sounded like a copywriter wrote it, not me. Now I don’t bother. It did help me learn about copywriting, but the reason I’m a bad copy writer is because it just isn’t me – and I see no point in social media if I’m not engaging authentically with my followers and friends.
Outline a topic into logical points
AI can help you structure and organize your content, by creating outlines, headings, subheadings, bullet points, and lists. AI writing software can also help you create outlines for different types and formats of content, such as blog posts, articles, essays, or reports.
Combine information from a variety of reference material into one article
AI can help you integrate and synthesize information from different sources, by using quotes, paraphrases, or summaries. It can also help you avoid plagiarism, by using citations, references, and links. But you have to ask it to provide the sources it used. If a particular AI writing software doesn’t allow you to do that, I suggest not using it.
Advice on Using AI writing software
AI is not a tool that you can use blindly or carelessly. It needs to be used wisely and responsibly. If you’re concerned about ethics and integrity – like me – then what follows is really important.
– Don’t use AI to write on topics that you haven’t already researched yourself. AI is not a substitute for your own knowledge and understanding of a topic. Don’t use it to write about subjects you know nothing about.
– Always check the facts that an AI gives you. AI writing software is not a guarantee of accuracy or validity. Keeping to subjects you know something about makes checking accuracy easier. If it says something that you’re not sure about, then you can do your own research to check.
– Check for stereotypical language. AI writing software is not a guarantee of sensitivity or respect, and it can easily contribute to harmful stereotypes.
– Always edit and add your own personal perspective. AI writing software is not a guarantee of quality or originality, and it does have an AI writing kind of voice, so edit it into your own words, voice, and style.
– Recognise that some content really does need to be your own words – like fiction that delves deeply into the human experience. Personally, I see no point in using it to write fiction.
Do I use Writing AI?
Well, I wouldn’t write an article about it if I hadn’t tried it, so I have used it, and I probably will continue to use it to find references, suggest headings and summarise the main points from several sources. But I won’t use it to actually do the writing for me. Aside from my desire to connect with my readers as a person, I don’t find it as useful as those touting the software seem to think it is.
I thought I’d give it a go for writing blog posts with the aim of saving some time, but after trialling some AI writing software, I decided that rather than use an AI to write a blog post for me, it’s quicker for me to use the AI just for research and sometimes heading suggestions to give me an outline. I then write it myself for all the reasons I stated above, particularly because editing out the repetition takes longer than writing it myself would.
For this post, I gave it the headings and content I wanted it to use in dot points and asked it to write the article from that. Not much of what the AI wrote is left after I edited it and added my personal perspective. Can you pick an AI-written sentence?
The best it did for this post was actually get me to write it!
As for fiction … I asked the Bing AI to write a short story about my wizards and their wizard houses. I gave it a story outline and left some room for creativity, and thought it added a cute idea I hadn’t thought of, I wasn’t thrilled with the result. The story has some major inconsistencies, and it wasn’t particularly well written. On top of that it didn’t stick to my plot line, giving me a rather lame ending rather than the one I asked for. When I asked it to write it again to correct it. The story had even more inconsistencies – things that didn’t follow from what was written before or that weren’t actually possible within the story – and the attempt at changing the ending was pretty lame. It would take me less time to write the story myself than it would to try to cobble together something decent from what I was given.
So should authors use AI writing software?
The answer to that is really up to the individual author, but I think if you are going to use it, you should be transparent about it. If you do publish something written by an AI or where you’ve used it as an assistant, say so. I’m happy to use AI as an assistant, but I’d rather do the actual writing myself.
Have you used any AI writing software? What was your experience?
And can you pick a sentence written by the AI out of this article? Here’s one: In this blog post, I’ll share some of the pros and cons of using AI to write content and some of the strategies that can help you use it effectively and responsibly.
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