GrammarPhile Blog

Editing AI-Generated Text

Posted by Sara Richmond   May 9, 2024 9:45:00 AM

PRN_Blogpost_05092024There’s a common joke among writers: “It’s easier to start over than to copyedit.”

Nobody laughs at the joke. They mostly just nod their heads, as if to say, “It’s funny cause it’s true.” Copyediting poor writing is a little like trying to clean a hoarded house without removing the hoard beforehand.

The interesting bit about that joke is that it came about in response to human writing, and not even necessarily poor writing. But it applies to AI-generated copy as well.

As a team of writers, proofreaders, editors, copywriters, and copyeditors who’ve seen the good, the bad, and the dreadful across nearly every industry, organization size, and type of content imaginable, we feel compelled to reveal a few downsides.

The Downsides of AI-Generated Text

We understand the impetus for using AI-generated copy. It’s fast; it’s cheap; it’s easy. It doesn’t talk back.

But these aren’t hypothetical downsides. They’re not reactive, “We’re afraid for our jobs” types. They’re not projected insecurity (i.e., “A machine can write better than moi? Better blow it to pieces.”). These are downsides we’ve already encountered, many times.

For example, consider a proposal one of our beloved clients recently submitted. We are intimately familiar with their voice, their products, their style guide, their content types, and their business model. It was immediately clear that the copy was AI-generated. It was also clear that to move it from what ranged between awkward and nonsensical to succinct and logical, we couldn’t just proofread it. We had to copyedit it…heavily.

Upon review, we made an estimated 5 times as many necessary edits as normal for jobs of the same length from this client. Oof.

So if you’re considering using or currently using AI-generated copy, please be mindful of these recurring observations.

Four Major Problems with AI-Generated Text

1. AI-generated text is dead easy to spot. It’s like a man with a white beard and eyebrows and a jet-black head of hair. We all know he’s not 20 years old.

2. AI-generated text has several prevalent weaknesses. It’s:

    • Odd. It often sounds, feels, and reads at least slightly “off.”
    • Repetitive. The same group of phrases is often used over and over.
    • Simplistic. No deep dives. No thought leadership. No novel ideas.
    • Stilted. Some pieces remind us of a high schooler trying to impress his English teacher with lofty phrasing and 25-cent words. Superfluous phrasing often bloats sentences to the extreme.
    • Predictable. Once you’ve read a paragraph, you’ve read 78% of them all. It’s often reminiscent of the type of writing that comes out of a content mill, propagating cheap info-sites.
    • Unclear. There’s a pervasive lack of clarity or precision; contextual words are often left out. Sometimes we haven’t been able to determine the intended meaning of sentences. Sometimes the writing doesn’t make sense. Sometimes it conveys a meaning we know wasn’t intended.
    • Dull. It lacks personality or a human je ne sais quoi.
    • Disordered. There’s a lack of logical flow, along with abrupt changes in tone, awkward transitions, and abundant misplaced modifiers. The phrasing is often difficult to follow.
    • Silly. It reads as if someone were trying to apply the rules of grammar and the comprehensive nuance of slang, idioms, figurative language, connotative and denotative meaning, and geographic-specific pop culture to an entirely different language/demographic, all with no idea of how to use even a simple subjunctive. A fake but apt example would be the use of “It’s a sight for sore eyes” when what was meant was “It’s an eyesore.” Similar but not at all the same.

3. AI-generated copy takes a lot of work to make it useable (more so than copy that’s written by even just mediocre writers).

4. AI-generated copy is often somebody else’s words, without attribution, authorization, or compensation. Plagiarism is inherent to AI-generated text.

The Takeaway: Adjust Your Expectations

Listen, we’re not saying don’t ever use AI. Or that it’s useless. Or that we hate it. (At least aloud.)

Our only skin in the game is making you look good and paving the way for your message to come across without the roadblocks of typos, errors, a lack of clarity, and other faux pas.

What we are saying is don’t expect a serial regurgitator to provide you:

    • the same quality you can only get from a real brain,
    • nuanced logic and language,
    • true research and honest attribution,
    • a lifetime of emotions and interpersonal interactions,
    • actual empathy,
    • and an endless wealth of wisdom and experiences to draw upon, all of which together we call real intelligence.

If your product and message are meant to stand out, then your words are the foundation of doing so.

Which raises the question: Will AI-generated copy make you a sight for sore eyes or an eyesore?


Thanks for reading! We post a new writing guide, spelling quiz, or grammar tip every other week. Be sure to subscribe to our email updates to get them delivered to your inbox. Use the search bar at the top-right of our blog to learn more about specific topics.

Can’t find answers to a grammatical head-scratcher that’s driving you batty? Post a comment below or submit a question directly to our grammar experts. We may even create a new resource or blog post with the answer!



Topics: artificial intelligence, AI

Subscribe to Email Updates

Sign up for our emails!

Sign Up

Search Our Blog

Recent Posts

Posts by Topic

see all