I remember distinctly the first time I heard of Chat GPT. It was early last year, while I was listening to breakfast radio when one of the announcers mentioned it. Keeping up with new systems and platforms is part of my job so I figured I’d better look into it. After a quick search online, it became apparent that Artificial Intelligence was no longer something that was happening in the future. The future, and AI, was here.

It became a case of Baader-Meinhof phenomenon (that’s the official name for when you hear of something new and then start seeing it and hearing about it everywhere AKA cognitive bias). I don’t think I was the only one who was alarmed at the seemingly sudden appearance of AI as a reality, rather than a sci-fi tale. Was AI coming for our jobs (and my job in particular)? Well, yes and no.

There are several different platforms now in use – Chat GPT, Gemini and Jasper to name a few. All the main social media platforms have started adding AI functions. And we’ve been using AI for a while anyway. Alexa and Siri are AI. Grammarly is AI. Every time you use (and get exasperated by) a chat function on a website, it is AI. Roombas are basically robots. We’ve been living sci-fi for a while.

Soon after that first mention by the radio announcer about Chat GPT (if you’re wondering it stands for Generative Pre-trained Transformer), I was asked at a business networking event about the impact of AI on copywriters. After all with the right prompts, AI platforms can write copy and content in minutes. My answer was that, like a lot of new technology, it is a handy tool, but you’ll still need the human touch to really refine the work. As I gave this answer, it occurred to me that a new avenue was opening up for wordsmiths. Copy editing.

A copy editor ensures written content is clear and free of errors. It includes checking grammar and spelling, and consistency of tone and voice. They can rework or edit content to ensure it isn’t too wordy and follows a logical structure. They can also check dates, statistics and the general accuracy of the content. If it is a business document, they can do the formatting so it adheres to a style guide. Basically we copy editors dot the “i’s” and cross the “t’s”, literally. So if you’re using ChatGPT or similar for your copy and content, you’ll need a copy editor.

I use Chat GPT mainly for research. And as any writer will tell you, the blank page or screen is an everyday challenge so if you’re struggling to find inspiration, AI generated content can be a quick and easy way to get started. But there are limits to what it can do. The quality of the answers it gives is dependent on the prompts you use. To put it succinctly “garbage in, garbage out”. To get the most out of AI, you have to learn how to write prompts that drill down to the information you really need.  A client of mine who regularly judges business award entries told me the AI-generated submissions are easy to pick, because they are long-winded, repetitive, and full of jargon. Basically they read like a computer wrote it.

Another issue is that the information it accesses isn’t up to date (ChatGPT says it is current until January 2022) so if you need information on recent developments, you’re out of luck. The information it provides may not be completely objective. Importantly, it doesn’t have your experience and insight.

Search on “AI fails” and there are many examples. I read recently of a history teacher giving out an essay question about the development of World War I, including the influence of avocadoes. It gave the teacher an easy way to identify who actually read the question and wrote an essay and who cut and paste the question into AI and asked it for an essay (this is the Van Halen method: The band famously had a clause in their rider requesting a bowl of M & Ms with the brown ones taken out in their dressing room. It wasn’t rock ‘n’ roll excess but a simple way to check whether their rider, which also stipulated stage directions and technical safety, had been followed to the letter).

So AI is helpful, but it is far from infallible. To get the most out of it, a copy editor (like me) will improve it by fact checking, minimising jargon, ensuring the content flows logically, and by keeping the word count under control. A copy editor can personalise the content by integrating your own expertise and insight. Copy editing will add value to your AI generated content by making it read like a human was involved in the writing.

You can find out more about my content editing services and contact me here.