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15Apr

Copywriting by algorithms

In May 2019, we posted an article on this website which discussed the recent launch of Microsoft Word AI. At the time, BBC Technology News described this tool as a new feature in Microsoft's Word aiming to help improve writing "beyond the usual grammar fixes."

The BBC article continued: "Using artificial intelligence, Ideas will suggest rewrites for clunky sentences as well as changes to make sure language is gender inclusive.

"It will help users lay out different parts of a document, including tables, and suggest synonyms and alternative phrases to make writing more concise."

Now, nearly two years later, the Covid-19 pandemic has created a huge surge in online activity, making the content showcasing businesses via websites, social networks and other online channels ever more important.

Copywriting by algorithms

Back in 2019, BBI Brandboost expressed concern about the dangers of "robotic writing" that such algorithms might produce. So our experienced copywriting services team decided to revisit the topic and re-evaluate the opinions we expressed at the time.

Advancing technology

The rise in the use of artificial intelligence (AI) and robotics in areas as diverse as engineering and clinical care has been staggering, transformative and mainly beneficial. A study by Pew Research predicted that by the year 2025 ""AI and robotics will be integrated into nearly every aspect of most people’s daily lives" and that the integration of these technologies would be so complete "as to be nearly invisible to most users most of the time."

Significant advances have already been made, including in the technology to support writers. A Microsoft Tech Community blog last August introducing Microsoft Editor stated that: "Anyone can access the essential Editor capabilities, such as spelling and basic grammar across Word, Outlook.com, and the web for free with a Microsoft sign-in. However, Microsoft 365 Personal and Family subscribers have access to advanced grammar and style refinements. Clarity, conciseness, formal language, vocabulary suggestions, and much more are included with your subscription."

A recent post by Wired commented that AI developments were not just being made by the tech giants, pointing to the Eleuther solution initiated by a collective of researchers. As the article explained: "Eleuther is an open source effort to match GPT-3, a powerful language algorithm released in May 2020 by the company OpenAI that is sometimes capable of writing strikingly coherent articles in English when given a text prompt."

Generative Pre-trained Transformer 3 (GPT-3) uses deep learning to produce human-like text. GPT-3's full version has a capacity of 175 billion machine learning parameters.

So did our original view that input from artificial intelligence "could be seen as interference rather than support" still hold fast with our copywriting services team this time around?

Cutting through the noise

Being an agency that specialises in online communications and digital marketing, BBI Brandboost is, and always has been, an enthusiastic champion of new technology. We would particularly point to the triumph of web based communications in empowering business and personal contacts during the Covid-19 restrictions.

Nevertheless, our copywriters have still sounded a note of caution when it comes to writing creative and marketing content, particularly at a time when Covid-19 has driven so much of business activities online. To "cut through the noise" requires thought and originality, and styles driven by algorithms could appear quite similar and defeat that objective.

Sometimes it is also necessary to bend grammatical rules, as in the famous Startrek split infinitive, which urged the crew of the Starship Enterprise "to boldly go where no man has gone before." In our opinion, if this was changed to "go boldly" it loses impact by breaking the rhythm and flow of the words.

Finally, in certain types of complex written content such as technical writing, these tools could act as barriers to accurate interpretation. For instance, word repetition can be seen as something to be avoided, but when describing an engineering or medical diagnostic process, repetition of certain terms can be essential.

Exerting control

Of course, none of this really matters as long as journalists and content writers have the confidence to override the advice given by algorithms when necessary. Experienced professionals such as those in our copywriting services team can do just that.

However, with the increasing sophistication of artificial intelligence, it's worth bearing in mind that aspiring professional writers in the future will need to display the expertise, knowledge and judgement to treat algorithms as advisers rather than instructors. Otherwise, they could find that the pictures they paint with words will change from works of creativity into painting by numbers. Indeed, the task of pressing the "I am not a robot" button on a website contact form would become increasingly difficult to perform with integrity.

Having read this post, if you believe that BBI Brandboost might help the written content and messaging for your business to "cut through the noise" created by the massive volume of online communications, then please get in touch at any time.

About the Author

Ronnie Gunn

Ronnie Gunn

As Head of Communications, Ronnie focuses on content writing, PR and media relations. Throughout a long journalistic and business career, he has developed an exceptional talent for spotting a good story and knowing how to tell it. His varied experience allows him to understand complex technical subjects like precision engineering and appreciate the key selling points of consumer markets such as travel.

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