Writers: How to Use ChatGPT and Other Tools to Improve Your Content
If you are a writer or have had to write anything in the course of your existence, you’re aware that it tends to be a solitary practice.
Or maybe not.
If you do it for your career, you’ll encounter many colleagues, editors, stakeholders, clients, etc. providing their feedback. And if you do it for a hobby or a side gig, you’ll have friends, fellow writers, loved ones, or editors reading your work and giving feedback.
If you’re lucky, some of that feedback is even constructive.
My point? Writers don’t do it all alone.
Which is where AI tools like ChatGPT come in.
Scary is as scary does
As a writer, am I scared of ChatGPT taking my job?
Ummm…Maybe? When even Hollywood is concerned?
Like, a part of my brain is anxious—but a part of my brain is always anxious. Maybe I’ve got an inflated sense of my own importance, but I am dubious it will snatch my job away.
Can it write stuff? Sure. Can it write good stuff? Sometimes. It can even be funny. One of my colleagues had ChatGPT pen a poem about working at DemandLab, which…wasn’t terrible. I believe in what the technology can do. I’m excited about it.
But I still don’t think it’s the self-driving car of content.
We deal with technological improvements all the time. Did ATMs take a chunk of time away from bank tellers? Sure. But I also know people working at banks who were then able to uplevel their skills and work with new kinds of technologies. Is there robot-assisted surgery where tools can agilely tuck into a spot human hands cannot? Yes. But you still require health care providers to operate the technology as well as talk to the patient and their family about how the procedure went.
Some things are always going to need people.
I don’t want to sound like everyone else
At DemandLab, we’re not like every other agency. We don’t want to offer what everyone else does.
So why would we want our content to sound like everyone else’s?
ChatGPT does what it can do because it uses what you give it. It learns from what it consumes. It’s fun to play with. And at DemandLab we’ve used it to prove a point, like my colleague Casey Grimes did for a recent blog—and the point of that blog was that AI describes something differently than how we practice it.
Because we’re different.
We all have the same sets of letters like a piano has the same amount of keys. Or like how a single recipe will taste different depending on who’s cooking it.
It’s what you do with a resource that matters.
Part of the joy in creating anything is that it will be unique.
What you create might be inspired by a whole lot of things. Like when I read an article or book that engages me, I think and write in that “voice” sometimes for a little while after, but I’m not writing the same thing. It’s one thing to be energized and another to be derivative.
Content is a way to sound out our voice—whether it’s personal voice, brand voice… or personal brand voice, if that’s your thing.
I don’t want our DemandLab content to read like everyone else’s.
That said, it’s a tool
I write a lot of different things on a lot of different topics for a lot of different stakeholders. This requires preparation.
For example, before I interview anyone about anything, I do research. The time spent doing that research varies depending on the subject and topic, but a lot of it involves going on the Internet and learning more before I talk to someone.
Could a tool like ChatGPT help? Sure. As a starting point, I see its value. It could be like an assistant who prepares a dossier for me.
But that’s not my jam. As I pull together my research, I can envision the piece taking shape. That is part of my process to write a quality piece of content.
I like doing my own research the same way I like doing my own grocery shopping. I want to press on all the avocados. I seek out my bananas in the precise shade of yellow-green…all by myself. I’m not a do-it-yourselfer on any home project, but I want to do the research to inform my writing. Would help be nice? Maybe. I’ve never had it, though. And I like control.
And yet: Not everyone has an assistant, but everyone could use some assistance.
I use Thesaurus.com. And autocorrect in Word and on Teams. We use a tool that provides numerical scores for potential headlines we develop to determine what’s most effective. When I make a typo in a Google search, I make use of tactful redirects like, “Showing results for airplane autopilot/Search instead for airplane autopilott.” How is that any different? When I’m typing in Google Docs, it will finish my sentence sometimes. It can be annoying like a date that interrupts you, but at times it’s convenient.
At work, we use Grammarly. I resisted it at first because as a professional writer I thought I knew better than it did, but I soon found gamification in it. I want to beat Grammarly, I want it to find nothing wrong: I want to win.
But Grammarly does find things wrong. Or suggests rephrasing. Sometimes I reject those suggestions because I think they take away from the voice or tone of the piece. But sometimes, it’s like: wait, that actually works.
What does content that ChatGPT generates mean for search engine optimization (SEO)?
Although AI-generated content isn’t technically against Google’s search engine guidelines, and it was explained further in a February 2023 Google Search Central blog post, it was made clear that using ChatGPT to “generate SEO-optimized junk will still be considered spam and attract penalties.”
Can ChatGPT assist in search so that it only gives you one answer instead of a list of many? Both have their pros and cons, says a recent Forbes article.
Personally, I’d still rather comb through more options to coalesce what I’m looking for; that’s just how I learn.
But I also get annoyed when I ask Siri when a famous person’s birthday is and I get a list of websites about the person, while Alexa gets to the point and tells me their actual birthday.
Maybe it’s a case of coexisting rather than replacing.
A partner in content
Writing is a lonely task that can take a lot of time.
I enjoy the process of creating and getting lost in words. But not everything should feel like an aimless stroll through the woods. Sometimes you have to whip up content quickly.
So I certainly understand the allure of tools that Can Do Things For Us; after all, I’m not banging my clothes against a river rock to clean them or riding a horse and buggy to the supermarket to pore over potential banana choices.
Sadly, people will use AI to complete writing jobs, although I think they shouldn’t. But I also don’t feel like it will take away my job.
As a writer, my goal is to find creativity and consider the audience and empathize with them. I aim to make connections and create content that engages, inspires, and explains. That’s what writers and creative humans do.
And I also think we can use tools like ChatGPT as not an autopilot, but a copilot. Maybe I am being naive, but I do not believe it will replace a writer’s brain. I don’t want my writing to sound like everyone else’s; I don’t want my company’s content to look like everyone else’s.
A brand’s content should feel like meeting someone you want to get to know more. And that content is—at least for now—still going to be created by a person.
Carin Moonin is a Senior Content Writer at DemandLab.