As an editor, distinguishing between human and machine-generated content is an instinct. While AI tools like ChatGPT can be useful for brainstorming, aggregating information, or overcoming writer’s block, their limitations are more apparent to the discerning eye than you might think. And getting caught, so to speak, with your hand in the proverbial content-generating cookie jar can look both unprofessional and uninspired. 

However, as a professor friend of mine recently put it, “Trying to stop students (or anyone) from using AI is like trying to stop them from using Google for research, or, for that matter, trying to stop a wave from breaking on the shore. The only thing we can do is teach them how to use it responsibly.” 

One dead giveaway is the language itself. AI tends to favor certain constructions that, while grammatically correct, lack natural phrasing. The word choices often feel forced, overwritten, or out of place. It’s like giving a fancy name to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. “Velvety nut paste and artisanal fruit confiture masterpiece”* might look impressive on the menu, but when it comes to the table, it’s not fooling anyone. 

 in point: I did a quick experiment where I asked ChatGPT to create a title and write the first sentence for articles on a variety of subjects. See if you can catch the problems below: 

➤ Unveiling Vietnam: Discovering the Rich Landscape of Tourism

Step into the vibrant world of Vietnam as we unveil its diverse landscape of culture, history, and natural beauty. 

➤ Into the World of Mixology: Exploring the Dynamic Art of Cocktail Making

Delve into the vibrant world of mixology as we uncover the dynamic interplay of flavors, techniques, and creativity. 

➤ Navigating Matrix Organizations: Unlock the Secrets to Effective Collaboration

Explore the dynamic interplay of cross- functional teams, dual reporting lines, and matrix management in today’s fast-paced corporate world. 

➤ Ethical Leadership: Guiding with Integrity in the Modern Landscape

Unveil the principles and practices of ethical leadership and inspire trust and authenticity within your team. 

➤ Golf Resorts: Luxury Escapes in the Serene Landscape of Leisure

Indulge in the world of luxury golf resorts as we explore the serene landscape of leisure and relaxation. 

➤ Fitness for Executives: Navigating the Dynamic Landscape of Wellness

Unveil tailored fitness routines and holistic wellness strategies to optimize health and productivity in the fast-paced world of executive leadership.

Imagine a world where everything you read sounds like a game of MadLibs. The sentence structure is the same, the word choices are the same, but different nouns fill in the blanks. The problem is that AI struggles with originality. While it can mimic existing content and rephrase information, it struggles to generate truly innovative sentences or insights. This results in content that feels derivative.

Another telltale sign is the lack of personality. Human writers infuse their work with quirks, opinions, and unique stories that reflect their individuality. AI-generated content, on the other hand, lacks the idiosyncrasies and nuances that allow us to distinguish Hemingway from Victor Hugo, and The New York Times from tabloid trash. But perhaps the most glaring indicator is inconsistency. 

AI may excel at producing coherent paragraphs, but it often falters when it comes to maintaining a consistent tone throughout a piece. Shifts in voice, sudden changes in vocabulary, or blatant repetition of words can betray its artificial origins.

In addition to linguistic analysis, the integrity of research and sourcing distinguishes human-generated content from AI counterparts. While AI algorithms can reproduce data, they lack the meticulous scrutiny characteristic of human investigation. Human writers (should) rigorously verify facts, and procure original data, firsthand accounts, quotations, and anecdotes to enhance the credibility of their narratives. This personal investment is the difference between a hastily scribbled note and a meticulously curated case file – the former merely states facts, while the latter tells a story rooted in careful examination and interpretation. 

My advice is to use AI to generate initial drafts or to overcome writer’s block. Don’t be afraid to let AI do the heavy lifting when it comes to getting your ideas down on the page, but once you’ve got the skeleton, put the work and original research into the hands of a skilled writer or editor to transform your ideas into prose that isn’t bland and bot-written.

Ultimately, writing is a deeply human endeavor – an art form that reflects our thoughts, emotions, and experiences. While AI may assist in the process, it is the human touch that will give life to your ideas.   

AVOID THE VOCAB VOID

Educate yourself on some of the most obvious tells and erase these words from your content. Keep double-checking your work to make sure you’re not becoming a digital echo chamber.

LandscapeOpulent BustlingBeacon 
DynamicSymphonyIndulgeVibrant
Explore Navigate Hidden gemUnveil 
NestledTapestryThe beating heart of ______In the heart of ________
Ode to __________A testament to ________ In the World of ________ ________is not just a _______ it is a ____. **Example, Amazon is not just a shipping company, it is a beacon of convenience. 
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Tim Burrill
Membership Manager & Executive Assistant
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