You Can’t Engineer Good Writing

When all is said and done, I am not a very good writer. I’m a consistent one, a passionate one, and I’m much better than I used to be. I am still not good at it when compared to people that have spent time crafting their art. That have spent time learning the ways of writing and growing their vocabulary to communicate with ease.

The truth is that anyone can write something passable with enough time to do it, but it takes years to do it well. This is one of the reasons that AI tools like ChatGPT can engineer some words on a page, but can’t communicate the point clearly and passionately. They are pulling in words that have already been written, working out which ones most likely go together given the subject, and churning it out. It gets it right most of the time, but will never fully replace a gifted writer.

When students arrive in college, they don’t see writing as a medium of communication … They see it as sort of this engineering task that they’re then going to present to us as examiner and hopefully have us say, ‘Yeah, you did it right.

Above is a quote by English professor Jim Warren, who teaches writing at the University of Texas. This quote sums up perfectly what most people think writing is, a sort of puzzle that can be solved by just placing the right words in the right order. Which indeed it is, in the same way beautiful music is just the right notes in the right order.

It might be technically correct (it also might not be) and covering all the basic points, but anything produced by the current level of AI tools is hard work. It is often painful, repetitive, and boring. Don’t get me wrong, this could just be a matter of time and computing power, but something tells me that good writers will never be replaced. As I’ve written about previously, creative work is about to be changed forever, but many of the work that is due to be replaced can’t be engineered.


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