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AI should assist, not replace, the writing process

At #nonprofit, we regularly receive article submissions for our digital magazine. Many of these are excellent, useful resources or insightful thought pieces. However, we have been receiving an increasing number of article submissions that are clearly AI-generated, submitted with little or no editing or review. 

It is often apparent when people have submitted auto-generated stories, while misrepresenting them as original compositions. As a more extreme example, we even received a job application where the cover letter was clearly AI-generated. But the applicant neglected to fill in the blanks, so the cover letter included gems like "I am the best candidate for this person due to my experience with [insert relevant experiences] and passion for [insert details about the nonprofit's area of work]."  
A reader will easily notice the lack of substance and insight in these hands-off pieces, even if you do remember to fill in the blanks.
To be clear, we find AI-tools to be incredibly useful in the writing process. But unedited AI-generated content typically lacks depth, nuance and original insight. The key to using AI-generated content is realising where AI tools can responsibly assist vs. replace a writer's critical thought.

The problems with using AI-tools

As an emerging technology, AI article writers have limitations:
  • Content tends to echo existing perspectives rather than provide new wisdom
  • Argument flow and structure is logical but formulaic
  • Tone can sound more robotic than resonating
  • Complex topics risk oversimplification into superficial summaries
  • "Facts" are not verified, and are well-articulated so they sound convincing, even if they're completely made up!

How to use AI-tools effectively

AI can be a wonderful time-saver when used to create a rough draft. You can use AI to support your writing process by prompting it to:
  • Provide starting outlines for your article
  • Generate basic descriptions of themes and ideas to refine for your overall vision
  • Flag relevant research sources to analyse
  • Create a draft to help you work through ideas and concepts
  • Help eliminate the writers block challenge of starting your writing with a blank page
  • Help summarise or rephrase paragraphs of text.
The sweet spot is in using artificial intelligence as a supportive collaborator in early drafting, while reserving critical analysis, structure revisions, tonal edits and topic expansion for the author themselves. AI should assist, not drive nor replace, the full writing process.
Quality thought leadership requires applying one's unique lens to shape your narrative arc in an authentic way that machines cannot (yet?) replicate alone. AI generation works best when feeding into human creativity rather than substituting for it. The technology is effective when it complements an author's own ideas, not used to do one's thinking for them.

So while it is worth tapping into various AI-tools to aid your writing process, own your ideas, insights and narrative. No digital tool can substitute for your creative vision and unique perspective. 

Image: Creator: Ilya Sedykh Credit: Free-Vectors.NET.  Licensed under Creative Commons. 

Ruen Govinder

Founder and Executive Director, Hashtag Nonprofit

Ruen Govinder is the founder and director of Hashtag Nonprofit. She has over 20 years of experience in consulting and managing online communications and technology for the development sector. She produced a series of e-books on communications strategies for nonprofits, and has worked with clients across Africa and in the United States.

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