Finding The Words

AI is on the rise. And capable of generating text that can pass for human-generated. Is working to become a better writer still worth the effort? Or are we all better off just learning how to write better GPT prompts? Let’s take a moment to pause and reflect.

  • Writing well is not easy. It takes a lot of time and effort. It can be frustrating.
  • But it’s also really important—a critical workplace skill.
  • So is it any wonder that plenty of business leaders are excited about what text-focused AI like ChatGPT can do?
  • After all, who wouldn’t want a high-powered copilot by their side. Helping them generate ideas. Pulling together research quickly. Getting it all done faster—with perfect grammar and spelling to boot.
  • Here at Pause + Reflect we are not opposed to smart tools that can help us write better.
  • We lean on Grammarly often. And the Hemingway Editor has been our secret weapon for years.
  • But we also strive to be clear, concise writers without the training wheels. And we think you should, too.
  • Veteran copywriter Eddie Shleyner agrees. He concedes that AI can boost our writing productivity. But he also sees some clear limits to its powers: “It cannot connect the dots like we can. It can’t be personal like us, human like us.”
  • Good writing can also help our teams plan and collaborate better. Amazon, for example, uses tightly written narrative memos to force teams to think things through and communicate clearly.
  • So what are some ways we can improve our writing (beyond learning how to create better ChatGPT prompts)?
  • Many of the rules and habits we all learned in school still apply. Like starting with a rough draft, using the active voice and proofreading carefully.
  • Beyond these basics, writing coach Bill Birchard has defined a very helpful set of rules for better business writing. Bonus: they’re all backed by science.
  • His first rule is a timeless classic: keep it simple. Research shows short sentences and familiar words increase our brain’s processing fluency. So pull back on the jargon and complexity.
  • The rest of Birchard’s rules are just as helpful. Some highlights: be specific, use emotive language and take advantage of the element of surprise.
  • Here’s a tip we live by: put yourself in your reader’s shoes. And speak to them directly. Focusing on your audience will help you decide what information to include and how best to arrange it.
  • It’s also a good idea to respect your reader’s time by keeping things tight and succinct.
  • Don’t underestimate the importance of feedback. A second pair of eyes can always help to find any gaps in your writing.
  • One final tip: try reading your writing out loud. It’s a great way to catch awkward or unclear phrases and achieve a direct, conversational tone.
  • Ultimately, good writing takes time and effort. But the benefits outweigh the costs.
  • Shane Parrish believes that these benefits will only increase as AI tools become more common. We couldn’t agree more.


Issue #171
Jun 11, 2023

Further Reading