Maintaining your voice in an AI powered writing world
  • 07 Apr 2024
  • 11 Minutes to read
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Maintaining your voice in an AI powered writing world

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Article Summary

Thank you to Kem-Laurin Lubin, Ph.D. - C, for sharing her excellent writing in our knowledge base.

Click here to read on Medium.

9 tips to retain your authentic voice as a writer

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” — Ralph Waldo Emerson.

From as early as I can recall, writing has been a passion of mine, not unlike those of you who share this aspiration, and write here on Medium. Over the years, my pen has danced gleefully across many pages and in numerous forms, from introspective journal entries to musings on ‘The Art of Walking’, and extending to more academic articles as dictated by my scholarly pursuits. Truth be told, I revel in the artistry of selecting the precise words to suit different contexts, embodying the sentiment that many writers hold dear:

“The pen is mightier than the sword.”

Did she slink or waddle? Did he smile or grin? To me, these nuances reveal much about a character’s mood and personality. Slinking suggests stealth and possibly secrecy, while waddling may indicate clumsiness or comedy. A smile conveys warmth and friendliness, whereas a grin implies mischief or sarcasm. These descriptors matter to me because they paint a vivid picture of the character’s presence and provide insights into their traits and intentions. Carefully chosen words transform a simple description into a rich, multi-dimensional portrayal, enriching the narrative with depth and complexity.

To be clear — I enjoy some of the features of Gen-AI — I am no Luddite but currently, encountering a piece of writing entirely produced by AI, devoid of human voice, is particularly frustrating. It feels as though no real thought has been invested in the work, relying solely on what Gen-AI can generate. There are some among us who seem to think that AI can effortlessly produce ideas that will lead to wealth, which I find regrettable. I think it is a false start: human-driven writing compared to machine writing, carries a complexity and nuance that distinguishes a flat, one-dimensional character from a dynamic, fully-realized individual in storytelling.

Keeping the human touch in writing

Insome genres of writing, nuance is essential for depth in character development, enabling your audience to engage with and comprehend the characters’ motivations and emotions. It’s the subtle variations in behavior, speech, and reaction that reveal a character’s essence, making them relatable and memorable. And I do not think AI is there yet.

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Through nuanced writing, characters gain the complexity and richness of real humans, transitioning from fictional constructs to beings that resonate and live in the readers’ or viewers’ imagination. Nuance in character portrayal is crucial for evolving simple storytelling into an immersive, engaging narrative experience. While I acknowledge the usefulness of AI in certain writing facets, I believe there’s a loss of the writer’s essence when AI takes full control, leading our unique voice to be lost amid the expanse of AI-generated content.

The prevalence of AI in writing, like company versions of Chat GPT, is startling, especially when people openly admit to crafting their resumes entirely with AI assistance. This raises the question: where is the individual’s presence in a resume generated solely by a machine?

Initially, the capabilities of generative AI captivated me, and they still do to some extent. Yet, it has become increasingly important to recognize the potential loss of our individual voices as we delegate more to AI. In the academic sphere, cultivating a unique voice and original ideas is crucial. A significant issue with artificial intelligence is its propensity to obscure plagiarism lines and generate inaccuracies, often labeled as ‘hallucinations.’

We are all now experiencing new writing terrain where, for the first time, university students — kids I know — are openly embracing the act of writing, thinking AI will do it all for them. Sad!

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Given this — the critical question that arises is whether we are referring to writing independently or with AI assistance.

This distinction is vital, reminiscent of the early days of Facebook (now Meta), when it was necessary to distinguish between genuine friendships and mere virtual connections.

As an individual with mild visual impairment (having worn glasses since age 12), I sometimes doubt my editing abilities — wondering if I missed a comma or confused ‘bear’ with ‘bare.’ These concerns often preoccupy me during writing, as I see my work as a reflection of myself, something I deeply value. I am aware of how my words are presented and their impact on readers. While I don’t profess to have a perfect method, I can divulge my approach to writing on this platform. My goal is to bolster my writing with AI, only utilizing it as an instrumental aid rather than allowing it to take over my skills, voice and cherished writing process.

Step 1: Narration — speak your stories

Using a recorder, especially if you have visual impairments, can be beneficial beyond its primary function. It allows you to capture the natural flow of your voice, thoughts, and emotions, enhancing the authenticity of your writing. To me, speaking out loud tends to produce a conversational and relatable tone in my writing. And I can switch it up. We all have multiple voices or personas, such as academic, professional, conversational, and storytelling. Select the voice that best suits the narrative you wish to convey, ensuring consistency throughout your work, always. Planning the order of your content beforehand can further improve flow and coherence. Moreover, voice-to-text technology is an invaluable tool for converting spoken words into written text, streamlining the writing process and reducing physical strain.

The ultimate goal is to ensure your writing reflects your true voice.

Step 2: Edit your spoken words

After transcribing my “spoken” words, using MS Word or if I am mobile, I use my recorder (speech-to-text), the editing phase becomes crucial to polishing my ideas, and improve the structure and clarity of my narrative. Occasionally, my writing may resemble a stream of consciousness — not quite as labyrinthine as Joyce’s Daedalus, but perhaps disordered in thought. And that’s perfectly human and acceptable. Whether employing AI tools or traditional editing software like Microsoft Word, the focus should be on enhancing clarity, grammar, and style, while preserving the core of your voice. This process may include rephrasing awkward constructions, correcting grammatical mistakes, and ensuring a logical progression in your narrative. Be prepared to rearrange sections for better flow.

Step 3: Listen to your story

Using text-to-speech features in applications like MS Word or other specialized software can offer fresh insights into your writing. Listening to your text read aloud can uncover issues with rhythm, awkward phrasings, and inconsistencies in tone that may not be immediately apparent in written form. I stumbled upon this method as a swift way to assess student papers, realizing that if it didn’t sound right, it likely wasn’t right. Sharing this technique with my students led to a noticeable enhancement in their writing quality. This auditory review process facilitates the verification that the writing flows naturally and conveys the desired emotional impact.

Step 4: Ask AI to review

While AI tools like Gen-AI can provide useful insights on cohesion, clarity, flow, and tone, maintaining your own voice and message is crucial. In my use of AI tools, I prefer to set parameters such as “introduce no new words” to keep the content original and personal. Treat the AI’s suggestions as a guide rather than a directive, critically assessing each piece of advice to ensure it aligns with your objectives and enriches your narrative, without diluting your distinct perspective and style. For instance, here’s how I use a Gen-AI tool for learning rather than for it to take over my writing.

I demonstrate to my students how to identify clarity issues, recognize run-on sentences, and spot repetitions, using the tool as a means to enhance understanding rather than as a substitute for their own skills.

Sample ChatGPT review

Keep in mind you do not have to take advise from an AI. To be honest, many times, I prefer my way of expression over Gen-AI.

Step 5: Integrate feedback thoughtfully

Gather feedback, if appropriate, from both your AI tool and human sources, like peers, mentors, or a writing group, if available. For instance, when I’m sharing someone’s story or mentioning them, I ensure its accuracy, akin to a reporter’s diligence. In certain cases, it’s beneficial to weigh AI’s analytical insights against human feedback to strike a balance between technical accuracy and emotional depth. Prioritize edits that bolster the clarity and impact of your message while maintaining your unique voice. This collaborative approach to revision can fine-tune your writing without compromising its authenticity. Remember, AI’s knowledge is rooted in the past, while humans live in the present, offering real-time insights and context.

Step 6: Wear different hats for different audiences

Consider the expectations and preferences of your target audience. Adjust your language, tone, and content to align with their interests and comprehension level. While preserving your unique voice, mold your writing to captivate and connect with your intended readers. Depending on the context, I alternate between writing like a close friend, a business professional, or adopting an academic tone. This adaptation may require breaking down intricate ideas, incorporating anecdotes to enhance relatability, or highlighting aspects that strongly appeal to your audience.

Step 7: Practice consistent writing habits

I’m not bragging, but I belong to the 5AM club — though truthfully, it’s more like 5:30. My early starts aren’t a choice but a necessity, given my life as a mother of school-aged children, working full-time, and caring for Chewie, my King Shepherd, who requires early morning walks. This schedule suits my lifestyle well. My morning ritual includes stretching, enjoying a coffee with cream or matcha with milk, and reviewing my drafts on Medium. This routine is vital for honing my writing skills and finding my voice before I turn my attention to my day job.

Consistency in writing has allowed me to express my ideas and emotions more authentically. For me, dedicating specific times to write, reflect, and experiment with various styles and formats is crucial. I do more creative writings on Sundays, for example.

Over time, this discipline has enabled me to discover and polish my voice, with consistency even even amidst the digital noise of AI.

Step 8: Stay informed and adapt

AI is here to stay, and embracing the role of an AI-powered writer is acceptable. Staying abreast of the latest advancements in AI technology and writing practices is crucial. Familiarizing oneself with the evolving tools and trends can spark innovative strategies and prevent your writing style from becoming obsolete. Actively exploring new generative AI features and writing techniques can rejuvenate your creative process and preserve your unique voice in the rapidly changing digital realm. The essential goal is to personalize the ideas as much as possible, as it is your stories, not those generated by AI, that truly resonate and connect with others.

Step 9: Give credit where it’s due

Lastly, it’s important to credit the sources of your inspiration and the tools that aid your writing process. I must admit that I haven’t consistently done this, particularly when using DALL-e for creating cartoon-like header images, often due to time constraints as my kids wake up and the dog needs attention. However, when utilizing AI for academic research, content generation, or editing, it’s crucial to be clear about its involvement in your work. Acknowledging the role of AI, along with any individuals, literature, or resources that have shaped your writing, is not only ethically sound but also enhances the credibility of your output.

The clarity in distinguishing between your own ideas and the external influences that shape your final work preserves the authenticity of your voice. It not only upholds the integrity of your creations but also strengthens trust with your audience. So, the next time you think of letting AI jus write a story for you, remember that an increasing number of readers can tell that it’s not genuinely your effort and frankly it is not authentic to you. Finally, I am also eager to learn about your techniques for keeping your unique voice amidst the whirlwind of AI-assisted writing.

Happy writing!

About me: Hello, my name is Kem-Laurin, and I am one half of the co-founding team of Human Tech Futures. At Human Tech Futures, we’re passionate about helping our clients navigate the future with confidence! Innovation and transformation are at the core of what we do, and we believe in taking a human-focused approach every step of the way.

We understand that the future can be uncertain and challenging, which is why we offer a range of engagement packages tailored to meet the unique needs of both individuals and organizations. Whether you’re an individual looking to embrace change, a business seeking to stay ahead of the curve, or an organization eager to shape a better future, we’ve got you covered.

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