October 4, 2022
By Nafeesah Allen
This article originally appeared in the Summer/Fall 2022 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin.
Artificial intelligence helps writers every day. But will it ever fully replace that human touch?
I’ve been an aspiring writer since I was a kid. Essay contests were my jam, so it’s only natural that I thought I’d make a name by writing the great American novel. But facts turned out to be stranger than fiction, literally. I soon turned to academic research and found I was better at telling stories about what had already happened rather than imagining what might be.
In 2020, I launched a freelance business, writing content for blogs and magazine digital imprints. I also edited for a platform that helped non-native English speakers polish their academic work for journals.
Writing online versus for print means lots of search engine optimization (SEO), research, and fast turnaround times for global readers everywhere. Deadlines are always yesterday, and since the actual publishing part takes just a matter of seconds, follow-up for your next assignment is right around the corner. No matter how hard I tried to create a “manageable” content writing schedule, solopreneurship was kicking my butt. I was making pennies on the word working for this service, and then my client started using artificial intelligence tools to save on costs, which had the effect of making my editing job much harder. Before the original work was sent to me to edit, an intermediary AI edit had already been performed. Not only was it difficult to revert all the changes to the original, it was hard to understand why the tech platform had made certain edits in the first place. Within months of the switch to AI, I quit.
Quitting that editing job was the best thing that happened for my writing career. I was able to focus on higher-value clients, and writing my own thoughts was easier than guessing at other people’s.
Then I took to the internet to learn what everybody else was doing.
I did a lot of research about different AI tools: ones that promise better first drafts, ones with built-in SEO (Search Engine Optimization), some that mitigate unintentional plagiarism, others that track readership of your published work. Turns out, AI is the pillar upon which much digital business content is built, and I suddenly felt that my initial disdain may have been because I hadn’t figured out how to harness it properly.
AI “writers,” also known as content generators, are computer programs designed to generate text for a given topic or industry. They can produce an infinite number of unique pieces of content. Writers—human ones—can use them to generate blog posts, articles, or social media posts. Some of what we don’t consider AI—spellcheckers, auto-fill text on your email, and Grammarly—are also AI-based tools that have become ubiquitous.
Clearly, artificial intelligence is a hot topic among more than just tech geeks. We word geeks are poised to be its primary users. For writers, AI software can enhance and expedite one or more stages of the writing process. If used well, it can spark creativity, organization, and even edit style and language, ideally freeing up time for writers to focus their energy on more thought-heavy pieces. However, if we don’t have enough time or energy to understand how the tool works and its pitfalls, it can rob us of time.
I went in search of other writers, real humans enamored with the written word, to ask how AI had touched their careers. The good news is that artificial intelligence requires a lot of human intelligence to make sense.
INK cofounder Alexander De Ridder describes AI for writing as “the use or leveraging of technology to perform writing tasks to create content. These tasks can include generating, rewriting, paraphrasing, and summarizing of content.” INK uses natural language optimization, or NLO, which is a sophisticated means of processing “natural” language (ordinary language that develops naturally through use) for search engine optimization.
Search engine optimization is the practice of using words or terms that search engines will identify as searched terms to index and rank a particular page or piece of content. SEO drives much online writing today. SEO tools scan the web for keywords, and they offer ideal phrasing so that your content will rank higher than competing articles on similar subjects. A higher ranking means that more readers will view the finished product.
One of the most common uses of AI for writers is geared toward helping technical and marketing writers produce “content” for businesses: brochures, social media captions, books, website copy, emails, and newsletters. This service is one of the most important aspects of a modern business. Most business owners aren’t writers, so they hire writers to help them tell their stories, find new clients, and communicate their successes. Companies looking for ways to generate content ideas at scale keep writers on payroll or freelance contracts. Companies are not only determining the quality of writing based on how many clients roll in the door or how many sales are generated offline but also how many people visit their website and scroll through their email newsletter. In the digital world, these metrics tools are what content creators rely upon to build their own writing businesses and grow their clientele. The process is cyclical.
Chhavi Agarwal, cofounder and writer at MrsDaakuStudio.com, started using AI for her personal and business needs around six months ago. “Initially, I was skeptical about using AI,” she said, “but then I heard overwhelmingly positive feedback about the Jasper platform, and I decided to give it a try, subscribing to the ‘Boss Mode’ subscription level. I’ve been working as a freelance writer for over four years now and have been running a successful blog for three-plus years. I also run a freelance writers’ academy, an Instagram channel, and a YouTube channel. My entire business is centered around creating content. I used to outsource 100 percent of my content before Jasper. Now I outsource about 50 percent and handle the rest of it myself.” Agarwal relies on the Jasper AI platform to write blog posts, YouTube scripts, captions for Pinterest and Instagram, email, and newsletter copy. She even uses it to update older posts, a process that used to take three to four hours. She says that Jasper has saved her half the time.
When asked if she thought AI would ever make her move away from working with her remaining writers, she said, “AI tools cannot create content by themselves. Even if they dramatically cut down the time to produce copy, it still requires a human behind it to make it happen. Not everyone has the time to sit down with a tool and write content. There is still a great deal that only writers can do, at least as of now. For example, putting the right emotions behind the content, updating it with relevant internal links, lead magnets, calls to action (CTAs), etc. There is no way AI tools are replacing writers in the near future. In fact, what marketing writers should understand is that AI tools are their friends. The sooner they adopt them into their business, the better they will cope in the future.”
At the same time, Agarwal does fear that if AI advances to a higher level, it could diminish the need for writers. “If businesses need ten writers now, they probably will need only two to three writers in the future. Why? Because these writers can make use of AI tech and generate just as much content as ten writers were doing before.”
This is one of the best-known and most advanced AI software platforms for writers. Jasper is AI-based content writing, with proper punctuation and grammar. Jasper gives you quick content generation, multiple templates, SEO content, Facebook ad booster, and fast content marketing in various languages.
Jasper can produce content at scale and keep a clean record with organized folders. To bring your blog posts to the top of Google results, Jasper is integrated with Surfer SEO, which is a content optimization platform that helps the writing on web pages rank on the first page of Google. Jasper also knows 26 different languages. It has different templates to help craft proposals, digital books, case studies, and several other kinds of content. However, the Jasper content creation tool can’t be used outside the platform. You’ll have to create and edit within Jasper. The Google Docs style editor is available only in Boss Mode.
Jasper has two price plans: Starter and Boss Mode. Starter is good for beginners and individual writers. You can generate 20,000 words per month at $29 per month. Boss Mode is best for teams, businesses, and organizations that get a lot of writing work. It starts at $59 per month with 50,000 words per month. You can generate up to 700,000 words at $600. Boss Mode offers access to a plagiarism checker and Grammarly (see below). Jasper’s demo is free, and the paid plans come with a five-day money-back guarantee. Explore your options at www.jasper.ai.
Copy.ai is powered for marketing copy as well as content writing. This tool can create multiple drafts on a given topic in seconds. You will need to sign up at www.copy.ai to get started.
Copy.ai uses a simple three-step process to create content. Choose the type of copy you want, tell Copy.ai about your product, and that’s it. You get ten different drafts of the same content to edit and tailor accordingly. This AI offers multiple options to generate personalized articles and copy. Copy.ai specializes in copywriting, so you can generate long-form content, but the project will still require research and editing.
Copy.ai offers three plans. As the name suggests, the free plan is free for everyone, but it has limited credits. The pro plan costs $49 per month, or $35 per month if billed annually, with unlimited credits, projects, priority support, and other benefits. The enterprise plan is best for big businesses and organizations with multiple writers. The plus point of the enterprise plan is its Collaboration feature and custom pricing.
Communication with intent isn’t simple. INK uses a strong AI writer to explain your point and optimize for SEO.
INK assists users in composing, expanding, rewriting, and simplifying phrases, as well as editing. However, it’s not limited to just these features. Its interface is user-friendly with multiple accessibility modes. It provides image and meta-optimization and topic ideas, and it can be integrated into WordPress—a website-building and online content management tool. You can also use it in Google Chrome and get suggestions from the AI. INK includes features such as SEO writing software, keyword optimizer, title optimizer, and unlimited SEO scoring.
But with so many features, a writer can get lost. This program requires practice to familiarize yourself with the different features and utilize them properly. Begin at inkforall.com.
Grammarly’s integration policy is flexible, connecting with Microsoft Word, Chrome, and many other apps and platforms. The free version works well for most day-to-day needs, but writers will see the benefit of the features of a paid subscription.
Grammarly spots spelling and grammar errors and gives suggestions for improvement. It simplifies complex sentences and fixes punctuation errors, clarifies unclear sentences, suggests synonyms for overused words, and has a built-in plagiarism checker. Grammarly also supports multiple languages. Its simple and user-friendly interface is a big plus. You can use it on a mobile device, as a plug-in on a web browser, or downloaded to a Grammarly keyboard.
Grammarly has three plans—free, premium, and business. The free plan offers limited assistance in proofreading content. It can correct spelling and basic grammatical errors. The premium plan starts at $12 per month for a single user and offers much more than spelling and grammar correction. You can improve tone, style, clarity, and engagement; detect plagiarism; and more. The business plan ($15 per month per member) is for a team of 3 to 149 writers. This plan includes premium features along with a style guide and priority email support. Visit grammarly.com.
What Big Tech can dream up is anybody’s guess. But communication—words—are not going anywhere.
I suspect that the role that AI will play in the future will be a supporting one. It will help us confirm that humans are still behind the words. Because it’s pretty clear when they’re not. Magazine articles look fake when AI produces them wholesale. The errors are egregious and obvious and people want to know they are reading something a human wrote. The human element is what makes people stay on the page, rather than click away to check an alert on Facebook.
As for me, I’m still stuck on Grammarly and the Read Aloud tool in Word. They work for me, and I’m not intimidated by the thought of them putting me out of business. But the jury is still out on whether AI will mean less business for writers overall.
Nafeesah Allen, Ph.d. is a multilingual migration scholar, marketing strategist, and freelance writer. She frequently covers personal finance, business, real estate, startup founding & funding, parenting, travel, culture, and more.
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