Is writing with AI “cheating”?

AI for Writing

someone interested in AI who also has a side gig as a writer, I get asked pretty often about using AI for writing. Even more often, I feel a tension in conversations that people want to ask about it, but it might seem rude. The instinct seems to be that using AI for writing – especially professional and academic writing – is cheating.

Let’s be clear: using AI for writing is only cheating if it is officially not allowed. This has two sides: as the writer you should know where your editor, professor, customer, etc. stands on this. For those who are assigning writing tasks, be clear about your own requirements. Are you ok with the use of AI, and in what capacity? The Pulitzer Prize now has policies for disclosures (not restrictions!) on AI use. You can too.

So for those of you who wanted to ask, no, I do not use AI to write my articles for TechWire or clients (unless asked). Nor do I use it for generating social media or video content. However, I do use AI to help me with this work.

I use AI to…

  • Summarize long articles, press releases, or academic papers for salient points and stats,
  • Explain or define complex concepts and acronyms,
  • Review the content I’ve written for errors or to improve clarity,
  • Review an article and suggest section headings and/or headlines.

But at no point do I take the AI’s responses verbatim. Most often the final product is a mash up of the AI version and my own. As Ethan Mollick says in his own recent article talking about using AI for writing, “The most valuable way to start us[ing] AI for work is to become a Centaur or Cyborg.”

Officially Using AI for Writing

I have been asked to use AI to create content for a client – yep, that’s happening. Writing content can be a heavy lift for a busy company and it’s true that at this point LLM’s write better than most people. But there’s still a lot of human effort required.

As a first step, I’m working with the client to generate the topic, which leads to a subsequent prompt and the initial draft. Once there’s a viable version, I review that for clarity, organization, and repetitiveness (a flaw I see frequently in AI-generated content). I then get client feedback on the accuracy and tone of the content to ensure it matches the company brand. If needed, there’s another revision or even a re-prompting (essentially starting over).

If that sounds like a lot of work, it is! Technically it’s more work for me than the alternative path of editing an article written by a company expert. The amount of work also increases with the relative complexity of the topics. But as LLM models continue to improve, the initial drafts will too, and edit times should decline. 

Companies that really want to invest in AI writing can potentially improve the process further by creating a GPT. By training an instance with their past content and expertise, they can effectively build a tool that will improve the initial output, while continuing to learn with each iteration.

Ready to try this for your small business? Get in touch!

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