Automation is creeping its way into most aspects of our lives – if there’s a problem, let’s look to robotics, AI or machine learning to fix it.
Take writing. It’s a skill that children spend a huge proportion of their school day mastering, and yet endless programmes exist to wipe out grammatical errors and rewrite your text into something that’s more readable.
But is it more readable? Do automated programmes really work when it comes to the nuances involved with writing good copy? In our book (or scroll), great copywriting isn’t just about rules …
At AMBITIOUS, we think there are pros and cons to automation. So, here’s some of our thoughts on the question of ‘Can automated programmes make you a better writer?’
The likes of Grammarly and Scribens can be useful, helping to identify inaccuracies and provide corrections. Using programmes like these in the right way can even help to improve spelling and awareness about grammar rules.
But, rely on them too much and we can become lazy and lose the connection with what we’re writing. It’s easy to blindly click the auto-correct function without questioning why and, crucially, whether the substitution works.
Then there are tools and programmes that look at the content and structure in more depth, such as Hemingway and Yoast for WordPress.
These tend to take writing ‘rules’ and scan your copy to highlight the parts that don’t conform. Yoast looks at aspects such as paragraph and sentence length, how often you use subheadings, if you’re using the active or passive voice, and the number of transition words in your text. It even uses the Flesch Reading Ease check to assess ‘if your copy is easy to read or not’.
Again, these can provide some useful pointers – some of which we may address when uploading copy into a WordPress site – however, there’s no substitute for the human touch. Taking too many of these rules on board can strip the copy of character and flair, creating something that lacks personality and is dull to read.
Of course, a lot of this comes down to what content you’re producing and who it’s for. They predominantly work well for web copy, which needs to be short, succinct and easy to scan. However, even on the web, some copy (think personal blogs and thought leadership articles) needs to stretch beyond the boundaries set out by ‘good writing for the web’ guides.
Biased on our part. Maybe? There’s no substitution for a good copywriter.
These programmes may play a hand in helping individuals and very small businesses save time when starting out, especially if copywriting isn’t your strong point. But for bigger companies producing lots of content, it’s vital that your content is well written and edited by a professional.
The editing process should never be overlooked when your company’s reputation depends on its accuracy. When it comes to fact checking, legal issues and offering expertise or insight into a subject, there is no substitution for human intuition.
And, a machine may be able to scan a document and deduce that a passage isn’t as readable as it could be, but it can’t tell whether the copy meets your company’s tone and style and if it’s suitable for publication on that basis. A good editor will understand your audience and the language that’s appropriate for them. Can the same be said for a robot?
Do you use writing and editing tools?
What do you think – do you use these tools and programmes to help when you’re copywriting, or do you prefer to rely on your own ability and a good old-fashioned dictionary? Maybe you hire a professional copywriter or editor to ensure your content meets the highest standards?
On his corporate communications blog, Steve Waddington looks at how he uses the Hemingway editing tool as a way to simplify his copy. “Hemingway is invaluable in helping write for the web. Sentences should be short and tight. No paragraph should ever be more than two or three sentences long,” he says.
However, he also sums it up well when he adds: “A word of caution. Use Hemingway as a guide and teacher but don’t become a slave to its suggestions. Knowing when to break rules is also a basis for good writing.”
We certainly deliver great copywriting for lots of clients. It’s a real strength of ours. So if you think AMBITIOUS can help with corporate B2B copywriting services, including tone of voice development, technical writing, case studies, editing, digital content, annual reports and more we’d be more than happy to talk about it … in person.