Getting ChatGPT to write stuff is everyone’s favourite new game. Especially for those of us who love to play with language.

An acquaintance asked it to explain the differences in punctuation between English and French, and it confidently spewed out a list of rules that made no sense at all. A writer asked it to pen a short story about a woman working as a translator in Montreal, and it came up with an amusing but implausible account of someone who translated an indecipherable text from an invented language. It’s all good fun, but how useful is it?

ChatGPT predicts which words should go together by consulting and comparing billions of them. It can be incredibly fast and accurate on the most obscure topics, saving you hours of research and finding things you would never find. It picks stuff out here and there, endlessly recycling it in new patterns and computations. And when it finds nothing, it guesses.

So let’s write something with ChatGPT!

Let’s say you want to write a website. ChatGPT can consult all the websites in the world and copy what they say in different ways and forms. It will talk about solutions. And quality. And customer service. And how to contact you. It will attempt to read up on the products or services you sell, and it will talk about those too. It is essentially predicting what your website would say.

The question is, do you want to be predictable?

Like machine translation, machine writing gives you an approximation of what you probably want. In many cases, it can provide a not-too-bad first draft. And that’s great if you have writer’s block—or you’re not sure what you should say. But don’t expect to surprise or dazzle anybody.

What’s the solution?

One way or another, you’re going to need a human writer. The quick-and-dirty approach is to have ChatGPT write something, then give it to a smart and creative writer to see what can be salvaged. Maybe there will be sentences here and there, or entire paragraphs, that you can use.

You need a “smart” writer because there will be fact-checking to do. As we said, ChatGPT tends to make stuff up in the most unexpected ways. You need a “creative” writer because you’ll probably get a mundane text. You simply can’t teach a machine to write using millions of texts, some of them good and some of them bad, and not wind up with something average.

Compared to ChatGPT, what does the human writer add?

Human writers (the good ones) ponder what you should say, they don’t predict. They think about your target audience and what makes you stand out from the competition.

They also pay more attention to language issues. What tone is best? How much information should you include? Are there any connotations to avoid? What about cultural references?

We once had to produce flyer copy for ready-to-serve Christmas cheese platters. The brief said they were perfect to bring out as the clock chimed midnight. “We can’t say that” we thought to ourselves. In some cultures, the big holiday meal is at midnight on the 24th. In others, such as in English-speaking Canada, the big meal is on Christmas Dday. A human writer knows that, just because that’s the kind of thing they know.

And what about creative copy? Do you really want a machine “predicting” what your slogan should be? Or that pays no attention to the brand voice you so carefully crafted?

Contact us at Anglocom

Whatever you decide to do, we can help. We will fact-check and language-check your machine-written text if that’s what you want. We’ll make it shorter if it’s too long, more compelling if it’s too staid, more specific if it’s too vague. We’ll correct it if it’s wrong. And if you need it translated into French or any other language, we’ll do that too.

If you prefer, we can write your text from scratch. Just explain exactly what you need and what we need to know. We can also meet for a formal briefing. We’ll read your materials, ask questions, consult colleagues, then produce a first draft for your feedback. It’s simple and efficient.

Anglocom has been copywriting and translating for advertisers and blue- chip businesses for over 30 years. We’d love to count you among our valued clientele.