How generative AI can assist with writing
In the ever-evolving landscape of content creation, the use of generative AI tools has emerged as a game-changing trend. Rather than relying solely on personal intuition and manual research, blog writers can now harness the power of generative AI tools to enhance ideation, optimize content structure, and even predict reader engagement.
These tools streamline the writing process by offering real-time suggestions, generating relevant content based on provided themes, and ensuring grammatical precision. However, the true artistry of blogging still rests in the hands of human authors. While generative AI can be very useful in the content creation process, to create blogs that stand out and are differentiated, you need to understand the specific role played by the writer, and by these tools. We’ll discuss this in this article.
The role of AI and the writer in creating content for Green for Growth
For this exercise we’ll focus on the Green for Growth site, whose purpose is to educate business students and professionals on the sustainability space. Broad topics include where new business opportunities lie and how businesses can adapt their current operations to be more efficient: to save money while cutting emissions.
Typically, each story will have a similar format:
- Use a case study to illustrate a point
- Provide more background and explain the underlying theme
In constructing the posts, the writer plays the pivotal role of identifying the case study and building out this section as it typically relates to an existing business as the focus.
Where AI is particularly helpful is in building out the background and explaining the underlying theme. Generative AI tools such as ChatGPT and Claude can be particularly helpful in this regard.
Whatever content is produced by Generative AI systems will tend to be bland and plain in tone. A writer should look over any information provided by these systems and look for opportunities to make more conversational and easier to read.
Start with structure
This may be obvious to you, but it’s worth stating that a good place to start with writing is laying out a simple structure. Don’t go too crazy getting everything right at the outset. This is more about putting down a sketch of what you want to say: in the writing process is where this will typically get refined.
Let’s use the example of a post on the Coral Reef Foundation, an organization who are using technology to help track the health of coral reefs. They are using computer vision paired with a small sensor device that can be dropped onto coral reefs can monitor their health.
The first thing to do is build out an outline for the post. The first step is to grab the readers’ attention by making the story relatable. The next step is to add in details and add the ‘why/what/how’ of the story. Next up is placing the story in context: are there elements of the story that can be expanded to other use cases? What are some key learnings from this story that have broader appeal? Finally, bring this all home with a short conclusion including any relevant links.
The starting outline would look something like this:
- Intro: make the case for why coral reefs are important and why they are in danger (Generative AI)
- Explain what the Coral Reef Foundation is doing to address the problem: using AI to measure coral reefs
- This is the same technology that Facebook and other social media platforms use to detect your friends in social media posts: computer vision (Generative AI)
- What this could mean in terms of monitoring coral reefs globally
- Why oceans are important indicator of climate changing (Generative AI)
- What this story tells us about monitoring generally and how tech can help
- Conclusion: wrap-up and any relevant links
You’ll notice that there are some sections where AI is more useful. This is typically where the information is more broad and helps add context to the story.
Building out the bulk
Now we have the basic structure down, we can start filling in the gaps. Let’s look at this section: “Why oceans are important indicator of climate changing.” I rephrase this as a question and pose this to an AI tool (ChatGPT in this case):
There are actually seven points in total and most are good, but this isn’t exactly the format I want. So I can specify “give this to me in a paragraph” and this is what is received:
Oceans are pivotal in signaling and responding to climate change. They absorb roughly 90% of the excess heat from global warming, making oceanic temperature rises a key gauge of the phenomenon. Concurrently, the melting of polar ice caps and the thermal expansion of seawater lead to sea level rises, threatening coastal habitats and human settlements. Additionally, oceans absorb a significant portion of human-released CO2, resulting in ocean acidification, which jeopardizes marine species dependent on calcium carbonate. The planet’s thermohaline circulation, or ocean circulation patterns, can be altered by temperature and salinity changes, impacting weather and marine ecosystems. Species are migrating due to changing temperatures, and warmer waters are causing coral bleaching, reducing marine biodiversity. Furthermore, declining sea ice in polar regions intensifies a feedback loop of increasing temperatures, while warmer ocean surfaces amplify the severity of tropical storms. Thus, the health and changes in oceans provide a multifaceted lens into the intricacies of our evolving climate.
Much better, but we are trying to. be conversational here so this is a great time for me to step in and simplify this, making it more conversational, and only focusing on the key elements that are relevant to the story:
Oceans tell us a lot about climate change as they are an integral part of the Earth’s ecosystem. They absorb 90% of heat from global warming, so monitoring temperature rise in the ocean tells us a lot about climate change generally. Oceans absorb a lot of the human-released carbon dioxide, which makes the oceans more acidic. Therefore the acid levels in the ocean are a proxy for the amount of emissions we are releasing into the atmosphere.
You can continue this process for each of the sections until you have the full draft for the post built out. Once you complete this, you’ll have the bullet point structure turned into a nice flowing blog post. Review the whole piece once more, looking mainly for neat linkages between the paragraphs, and making the flow still makes sense.
Wrapping things up
This may sound contradictory, but many writers like to finish at the beginning: that is come up with the headline after the post is written. You have spent time exploring the topic and so new ideas for how to quickly convey the key theme or point may emerge. There may also be turns of phrase or elements that come out during the writing process that you want to uncover in the final piece.
What are some tips for the best headline? If you can get to short and provocative, that’s great. If not, think of how succinctly you can be explanatory. Remember that there is both a title and sub-title, so not all explanation needs to happen in the main heading.
Examples of explainer writing with style
The goal of this blog, like many others, is to explain concepts in a way that is relatable and conversational: like the way you might tell something to a friend. Generative AI tools like ChatGPT do a great job of explaining concepts but as we’ve already covered, can be a little dry with the output they provide. Here are some great examples to consider:
In this post on building trust in business, the style is informal, using short sentences, simple words, and a lot of ‘you’ to put the reader in the driving seat. This brings what could be a dry topic to life.
In this case, the topic is sustainability and energy. You can see how a number of statistics are woven throughout the piece, but they support the story at each stage. It never feels like this is just a group of facts being thrown at you: the structure comes through clearly.
A note on writing
There is no better way to learn than to try and explain what you know. Even if you think you know a subject, as soon as you try and write about it, often this will expose gaps in your knowledge. Filling in those gaps will help you and your readers. Everyone wins!