Writer or robot? AI and copywriting: articulate, efficient – with a long way to go

Whether you employ it on the regular, try to deny its existence or land somewhere in between, AI has undisputedly claimed a role in copywriting. Is it likely that its job description will expand in years to come? Yes. But our talented human writers needn’t panic just yet. These new AI apprentices need a whole lot more training and development before they can overcome a few significant limitations:

Firstly, AI can’t fact-check itself. Actually, it never had all the facts in the first place. Tools such as ChatGPT hold a ton of information and myriad ways of communicating data. But remember; it’s all based on text that’s already in existence. Not all of it is impartial, verified, or rigorously updated. There’s no one out in the field, checking and analysing. Ever play Chinese Whispers as a kid? Yep, us too. 

What’s more, for a bot that doesn’t have all the facts, it often produces copy whose tone borders on the overly factual – or seeming this way, at least. Despite its best efforts to convince us otherwise, AI doesn’t have feelings or opinions. It only possesses information ready to evaluate, process, then regurgitate. Which often leads to lengthy, list-filled prose that lacks personality and feels somewhat dull.

Nuanced understanding of the context for our writing, as well as poignant, current examples, are crucial for producing high-quality copy. With AI tools, both are practically non-existent. Put bluntly, ChatGPT and its competitors haven’t heard what happened yesterday. OpenAI’s chatbot knows nothing post-January 2022. That’s for version 3.5 anyway – GPT-4 is a little more up-to-speed, but still bears an April 2023 cutoff. In an age of fast info and limited patience, our writing really requires a human touch to achieve the highest level of analysis, detail and accuracy.

Communicating with an audience on a complex or stressful topic? These tools simply can’t feel, let alone express, empathy in the same way as a person. Good writing should make us think, laugh, cry, worry, share, and more. For this to happen, an understanding of our audience’s fears – and the ability to implicitly allude to these – is key. But give ChatGPT a prompt that includes a persona or group to address, and it’ll spit out a letter format, starting with ‘Dear {your audience}’.  Well-intentioned, yes; but hardly the subtle hook that every writer strives for to capably capture their intended readership.

So as it stands, whilst 2024 continues to see increasing use of AI tools to enhance our content, they still struggle to truly comprehend what they are writing. Even less so, who it might resonate with and why. We can certainly lean on AI to enhance our work with neat, informative and stylistically pleasing excerpts that can draw on basic points and elaborate articulately.  But for now, it’s all a little “surface level”, so thank goodness for humans whose hands (and brains) can dig a little deeper.

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