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How to use AI as a writer (without embarrassing the entire industry)

How to use AI as a writer (without embarrassing the entire industry)

Where all my Luddites at?

I have a general aversion to all forms of new technology, but AI is the first that seems to be actively gunning for my job as a writer. At least that's what everyone is trying to tell me.

Am I afraid of AI? On a personal level, yes. Am I afraid it’s going to render writers obsolete? No. 

AI can write, but it can’t write well. Good writing isn’t just grammar rules and research. It’s about curating and creating ideas, filtering those ideas through your own experiences, and presenting them with empathy to your audience. Or at least something along those lines.

When asked if he worried about AI taking over writers' rooms, John Mulaney answered, “There is a profound difference between knowing you’re hearing a joke from a person and knowing you’re hearing it from AI. The audience isn’t just looking for the actual mechanics of it.” And to that I say, “Yeah, what he said.”

John Mulaney gives his thoughts on AI writing during a "Hot Ones" interview

What does concern me, however, is the number of people using AI and then pretending to be writers. Passing off AI-generated words as your own cheapens all of our work, and also it’s just creepy. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t ethical ways for a writer to use AI as a tool. In fact, we’d be fools if we didn’t use it. Turns out those robots really do know a thing or two about a thing or two.

Writers: There are responsible ways to use AI (we swear)

So without further vamping (a computer could never), here are five ways writers can (and perhaps should?) take advantage of AI. 

1. Brainstorming

You know when you’re playing Scrabble and sometimes you have to just shake up all your letters for a new perspective? That’s kind of what using AI for brainstorming is like. It takes all of the things you’ve been overthinking, gives them a shake, and then spits them back out. The process can be super helpful to spark new ideas.

Here's what happened when we asked Chat-GPT to recommend headlines for this article

I recently asked Chat GPT to help me think of punny names for a beer. All of its suggestions were terrible, but it did give me inspiration that led to "Heinie Can" (don’t ask) so it was a win for me and AI.

2. Selling an idea

If you’re working with a creatively challenged client, AI can be a really helpful tool to explain an idea for a campaign or activation. Some of the best ideas are also the wildest and people can have a hard time imagining something they’ve never seen before. AI can help create a quick mock up of what you’re imagining so that the client feels more comfortable giving the green light to create the actual artwork.

Guide to AI tools for future of work | Polywork Blog
A guide to AI tools that you can add to your digital tech stack and use it for greater productivity.

A colleague recently shared that she was pitching a campaign that centered around cats playing poker. Conceptually, this is a weird thing to wrap your head around if you don’t have an imagination. It’s also a difficult thing to conceptualize using stock images. AI helped create a visual that ultimately sold the idea to her client.

3. Organizing a confusing brief

Sometimes you get a brief and you just think, “I have no idea what they actually want me to do.” Enter AI. You can enter that bad boy into a summarizing app and it will spit out the key directives, insights and mandatories.

This prompt confirms that even robots aren't entirely sure what content marketing is

I would not recommend just taking AI’s word for it, though. Rather, I use the analysis as a jumping off point to clarify with the client.

In other words, I use the AI generated summary to confirm with the client that I’m taking away the right points. I find it feels more productive to come back to a client with an idea of what you think they’re asking for rather than just asking them to reword something that already makes little sense. AI gives you that idea.

4. Proofreading

AI proofreading is pretty incredible. Imagine if spellcheck hit puberty over the summer and suddenly became the hottest kid in the tenth grade. You’ve seen them before, but not like this.

If you want to get nit picky about grammar, punctuation, citations and more, AI has you covered.

5. Dealing with difficult clients

To me, this is where AI really shines. Sometimes you have to have a tough exchange with a client. And while we all try very hard to keep emails professional, there can come a point in a back and forth when it’s nearly impossible to eliminate all markings of frustration, anger or resentment.

Think of it like sending something to your really thoughtful friend and asking, “Does this sound ok?”

That’s where AI comes in. AI can analyze the tone of a piece of writing and let you know what vibe you’re giving off. It can even help you rewrite the email to make it friendlier, calmer or more open minded. Think of it like sending something to your really thoughtful friend and asking, “Does this sound ok?”

I am sure this list is not exhaustive. For example, I’ve also heard writers talk about using AI for things like summarizing research or helping boost the number of SEO terms in the word count. I look forward to learning more ways to utilize AI in a way that isn’t icky. I think the thing to keep in mind is that AI should be a tool to do your best work, not a tool to do your work. And, of course, don’t trust everything the internet tells you.

Want to play around with AI?

Here are a few places to start:

AI for the mechanics of writing:

AI as visual aids

AI for idea generation

AI isn't telling you to create a personal website, but we're sure it wouldn't be mad if you did. Get started at polywork.com.