What’s the Truth About Generative AI? It’s Complicated.
by Bethany Good | Oct 9, 2023
In a World With Generative AI, Who Needs Writers or Editors?
A few weeks ago, I talked about various aspects of marketing, copywriting, and editing with a new connection on LinkedIn. The conversation went something like this:
Skeptical Sally: I use AI for all of my marketing. I love it! I’m never going back to the old way.
Me: Oh, glad to hear that. It can be a great tool for marketing. I do worry about the jobs of writers and editors, though.
Skeptical Sally: Yes, well, the industry is evolving. We must adapt. No one plows a field with a horse anymore, after all.
Me: That’s true.
Skeptical Sally: We’ll still need writers. But editors—I think that profession is on its way to being obsolete.
These days, I’m not so worried about AI coming for my job, but I still want to get the record straight about this technology. People seem to fall into two camps when it comes to AI technology. They either believe that it has the power to change every industry for the better, or they believe that it will cause the destruction of our society. In my opinion, neither is true. This technology could be used for great things, like the early detection of cancer, but it can also cause real harm to everyday citizens. The truth of AI is far too complicated to detail in this post, so I will focus on my own experience as a freelance copywriter.
Since Chat-GPT literally exploded my industry late last year (more on that in a future post), people have been asking me this question: How are you better than AI? Proving my value to potential clients through my portfolio, stats, experience, skills, good reviews, and word of mouth isn’t enough. Now, I had to contend with a faceless, emotionless machine. After nearly 30 years and countless hours spent honing my craft, I now have to explain why I’m better than a robot.
I often tell them, “AI is a helpful tool, but it’s not a replacement for a human writer or editor.”
ChatGPt is easy! You simply input your prompt, then copy, paste, and ta-da —you have something.
I’ve used Chat GPT and its robot cousin Bard enough to know what it can do and what it sucks at.
What it can do:
- Generate relevant text and answer questions really quickly.
- Give writers great outlines for blogs, articles, essays, or other writing pieces.
- Use data to determine which word goes next in a sentence.
- Come up with blog topics and meta descriptions
- Create a bland college essay with nearly perfect grammar.
- Quickly summarize a document or file
What it sucks at:
- Generating articles with factually correct information
- Using psychology to persuade someone to buy goods or services
- Writing in a conversational tone.
- Understanding verbal nuances, slang, humor, or other conventions.
- Writing something that will evoke emotions in a human being.
- Scripted dialogue.
Blog outlines, social posts, and articles require heavy editing to make the text more conversational and human. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not naive enough to believe these tools won’t keep improving as time passes. But taking the human element out of writing is a big mistake.
Here are four reasons why you still need a human writer or editor.
1. Chat GPT doesn’t have childhood trauma
Fact: most AI-generated text is often bland, generic, and lacking in personality. Several months ago, I told a colleague that AI wasn’t very good at writing with emotion. He seemed determined to prove me wrong. Over a shared screen, he put in a few prompts, asking ChatGPT to write in an emotional tone. The results were less than impressive. It used words like “delighted,” “elated,” and “enthusiastic,” but the context for these words wasn’t quite right. It didn’t seem genuine or authentic. It sounded clinical, impersonal, and robotic. But that’s okay. It IS a robot. You can think of it as a toddler or small child. They don’t have the language or life experiences that you do. Human writing is based on our lived experiences, the anger, love, or heartbreak that drives us to make decisions, create art, or write a poem. Emotions are what make us human. Speaking of which—
2. AI doesn’t get this whole “human” thing.
In copywriting, we use human psychology to persuade people to buy goods and services. Copywriters understand everyday human frustrations and offer solutions to those problems. We know each person carries a lifetime of memories and experiences through every interaction. We also know that emotions are at the heart of why people buy goods and services. Think of all the ads that play on your heartstrings. They are trying to make you feel something and then take action.
Chat GPT is excellent at generating ideas, constructing outlines, figuring out which word (logically) goes next in a sentence, and developing a piece of writing with nearly perfect grammar. But it doesn’t do humor, nostalgia, or loneliness very well. How can a program that has never felt pain, passion, or desire market to an audience of people? Well, it needs a little help with this task. Enter—a good editor.
3. Why AI needs a human editor
Editors don’t just correct grammar and spelling. They help make writing accessible and conversational to a human audience. Editors enhance the readability and clarity of your writing in ways that technology still can’t touch. Why? Because editors are also writers. They have a handle on the changing landscape of language and culture. They understand slang, the nuances of tone, and humor! They can guide writers to find their voice, sharpen their prose, and shape their stories in a way that technology can’t.
4. Chat GPT is the IKEA of marketing tools
Let’s make a real-world comparison. We all know that IKEA can manufacture furniture cheaply and efficiently. These flat-packed bookshelves and bed frames are great for furnishing your college dorm room or your first apartment. Most 19-year-olds don’t need an expensive mahogany dining set that won’t get used anyway. But once you get older, your perspective and your needs change. As an adult with kids and a mortgage, you understand the value of a handcrafted oak table. You know that a skilled carpenter can take the time to build a well-crafted piece that could last for a century. Something that you can pass down to your children and grandchildren. Why? Because the carpenter understands that their table will be central to family life. A place for laughter and memories.
And so it is with copywriting. If you want to draft a quick infographic or informational social media post, Chat GPT or Bard will work for you. But if you need an article explaining what your company has meant to the community for the last 50 years, you hire a skilled writer who will create a beautiful story about the lasting legacy of your business.
The Truth of the Human Experience
I think back to my conversation. “The industry is evolving,” skeptical Sally explained to me. “No one plows a field with a horse anymore.” That’s right. We use tractors and other machinery. But you know who’s still around? Farmers. The very people who can look at a field full of wilting plants know it’s time to water and fertilize them. The people who can feel a drop in air pressure and see a storm is coming without even looking at the weather. The same people who can pick a tomato off of the vine to taste if the flavor is just right. “This one will sell well at the market,” they say. And they’ll be right because they’ve experienced the pure joy of a cherry tomato bursting on your tongue.
Writing has been a deeply personal act for most of human history. It, too, has gone through many technological changes, from drawings on cave walls to ink and papyrus to the printing press to the evolution of the personal computer. All these advancements have significantly impacted and changed the course of history. I won’t deny that. And yet, the goal of writing (whether it be novels, poetry, prose, plays, or even television and film scripts) is to find deeper meaning or explain some intangible human truth. Chat GPT could scour the entire internet; it could read all of the great novels and songs, but the content it generates will always be hollow because it can’t feel feelings. The ability to experience joy, pain, and love makes us human.
I’m passionate about writing. I believe all businesses have a passion for what they do. My job is to share your passion with the world through my writing.