North American Association of Sales Engineers

North American Association of Sales Engineers

European Association of Sales Engineers

Is ChatGPT the Death Knell of Professional Writing?

Suddenly, ChatGPT (and other brands of generative Artificial Intelligence) are everywhere.  It’s all the rage.  Seems like everyday there is something in the news feed about it.  Apparently “everyone” is using it, and some people are saying that it is and will become a key element of future society and business.

That all may be true.  But, should it be?

Just because something exists, does that mean you should use it?  Recently a high school senior used ChatGPT to write his entire final paper for a History or English course.  Apparently he did not realize that there are now several apps or programs that can immediately tell if text was written by a human or by AI.  So, he got caught- and failed his course which he needed to pass to graduate from high school.  Looks like he will be redoing his senior year or at a minimum he’ll attend summer school.  Not too smart.

As a business model, the tech companies that are offering these kinds of specialty AI services have to find a way to make profits off it.  Thus far it has mainly been “free” to use.  It’s almost like the freebie joint or hit that is offered under the assumption that the customer will be hooked soon enough and then will gladly pay whatever the price or fee is.  I’ll be curious to see how many individual (non-commercial) users will continue with it when it costs them $39/ month or whatever it might be.

Aside from all of that, I do believe that it will erode much of whatever is left as far as skilled technical or business writing.  And with that, critical thinking.  Being able to develop (and “sell”) a storyline or a business solution.  If ChatGPT can do it just as well, then why should I try to draft and write something for a presentation?

I have been published by many business and technical websites and publications, and what is clear (even before the ChatGPT launch) is that it seems like each year there are less and less competent writers out there.  Ask any PR company, or marketing company.  Ask a manufacturer that needs help with creating content pieces.

Even recent college graduates that have degrees in English Literature often are quite lacking in the skills and awareness needed in business or technical writing.  I have noticed this first-hand.

In my career I have done a lot of writing, and also a lot of bidding/estimating.  And also a fair amount of design/CAD work.  Writing is very similar to both estimating and design.  You can’t fake a proper bid, or a design.  You have to know what goes into it, what the specifications are, what the steps are, what the vocabulary means, etc.  It goes the same with technical or business writing.  You have to know what you are talking about; if not- it can become very evident.

If companies allow generative AI to write their content, and their presentations, and their proposals… then who at the company can show and prove that they know all the details of their own product or solution?  Will they still understand and be able to explain in various ways the business case?  If nobody that interfaces with the client or prospect can, then I suppose we are hoping that ChatGPT will just bail us out?

I realize that I am over-simplifying the questions and value of generative AI in this article.  I do think it has uses, but I question if perhaps it could do more harm than good in the end.  Professional writing is something that is of great value to people in technical sales and technical marketing, as well as product management.  American society and industry doesn’t need something widespread that will make us worse at it than we are now.

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