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6 Ways AI Can Help Writers (Besides With the Actual Writing)

The words "artificial intelligence" written with a typewriter.
Photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

Although artificial intelligence (AI) is still in its infancy, it’s one of the most ballyhooed technologies ever available to writers. While some authors have been put off by the inherent legal questions yet to be hammered out, others have embraced AI and use it for many writing-related tasks, from idea conception to submission.

I can attest to AI’s time-saving capabilities. For a recent content-marketing article I wrote, I used AI for every step of the process up to the actual composing of the work. In doing so, I found that it slashed the time needed to complete the following tasks anywhere from half to two-thirds — which thrilled my clients.

Here are some of the most popular ways that I and other writers use AI to streamline the writing process.

1.   Interview questions

Preparing for an interview requires research into the topic and, often, the interviewee’s background. When a client asked me to interview an employee, I typed the subject matter, title of the interviewee, and the intended audience into AI and asked it to prepare 10–15 questions. In fewer than 15 seconds, I had what I needed. Although only ten of the questions proved usable — some fell outside the focus of the post or were too granular — they gave me a solid jumping-off point. I fed the ten usable questions back into the prompt and asked AI to produce more like those. The next batch was more on point and relevant to the subject and, although AI hadn’t covered everything I chose to research, I was able to identify the main points of the interview in a fraction of the time such a task usually takes.

2.   Idea generation

One of my least favorite writing tasks is coming up with article/blog titles and copy for social media posts. But with AI, the task is much more palatable — and, of course, faster. AI rarely nails the copy on the first or even third pass, but what it ultimately delivers usually requires only a bit of polish. Worst-case scenario: The copy is completely unusable but gives me ideas for where to start, including keywords.

I’ve also used AI to help me devise angles for pitches. I once fed an editor’s call for content and the publication’s URL into AI and asked it to generate ideas. Again, none were perfect, but what AI produced got me thinking in directions I wouldn’t have otherwise.

3.   Outlines

Along the same lines as idea generation, AI can compile an outline, whether for a book, article, or blog post. As with developing pitches, AI generated some ideas that I hadn’t thought of on my own — and wouldn’t have without considerable time devoted to research.

Not to be overly meta, but my first step in writing this blog post was to plug in the title and ask for ideas. I took the best suggestions from AI’s list, added them to ideas I’d already jotted down, and in under two minutes, I had my outline.

4.   Research

AI can shave time off the research phase of writing. When I was working on a round-up of famous Hawaiians for a travel article, AI compiled a list of prominent names in less than ten seconds. Since I wasn’t familiar with some of those individuals, I asked for ten more and from there easily culled the list down to those I thought the editor would approve. Total time spent: less than five minutes. Researching the list on my own would have taken me at least half an hour.

Likewise, while working on a short story, I asked AI to research international superstitions and mythology regarding houseguests. In 30 seconds, AI came back with far more information than I’d been able to compile after spending two weeks researching on my own. Although I didn’t end up using any of AI’s suggestions in the final draft, one idea spurred another that I ran with. In this way, AI can inspire in much the same way that brainstorming with a savvy expert does.

5.   Simplifying complex material

Depending on your subject matter, while researching you may come across opaque, lengthy, and/or esoteric text. Slap that copy into AI, ask it to summarize or rephrase in plainer speech, et voilà! You’ve saved your brain some battery power you can apply to the actual writing.

(You can also use this tip for everyday life challenges. I recently had AI “translate” a doctor’s prognosis and the warranty for my new camera, and had it summarize a website’s updated terms of service.)

6.   Word choice

Sure, you can always consult a thesaurus, but asking AI to review a finished piece for word choice kicks your self-editing up a notch. You’ll likely receive suggestions on words beyond those you were looking for. Even if you don’t use the generated suggestions, seeing the options provided might make you more satisfied with your original wording.

You can save yourself a lot of time and hassle with AI, but it does create some new writing tasks. Don’t forget to fact-check everything (it’s a well-known fact that AI often lies) and to run your copy through a plagiarism checker. Thankfully, those steps take far less time than those listed above, so you’ll still come out ahead on the clock.

How do you use AI for writing? Share in the comments below.

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