On Using AI to Write

monitor screen showing chatgpt landing page

I was feeling cheeky and a little curious, so I asked ChatGPT to write me an essay on why using human writers was superior to AI. Perhaps the most fascinating thing about this exercise is that the writing is simultaneously good and awful. It’s good in that it’s grammatical, clear, and competent. It’s awful in the sense that it’s flat, dull, and lacks, for lack of a better expression, “soul.”

So, let’s take a look at the essay that ChatGPT wrote for me—“The Superiority of Human Writers over AI,” to see just how right it is in its conclusions.

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The Fault Is in Our Grammars: Language, Gender, and Pronouns

Dictionary entry for "they"

To say that our cultural consciousness on matters of gender identity is rapidly evolving is an understatement. In a few short years, our awareness as a culture went from practically none to a kind of “how could you not know that?” state. Let me give you a quick illustration.

For many years, I had the privilege of working in a campus ministry context. The community I served was a community of students committed to sharing the radical, all-inclusive love of God with a broken world through acts of worship, devotion, service, hospitality, and especially social justice. Of the religious communities on campus, aside from the Unitarians, they were by far the most progressive.

Once, at a student leadership meeting in 2010, one of the students made an announcement about the men’s group breakfast the following weekend. “So, if you like Canadian bacon and don’t have a uterus, you’re welcome to come.” In three years’ time, in that same community—a community that would invite “all female and female-identifying persons” to attend women’s group meetings—this comment would have been viewed as terribly transphobic. But in 2010, no one even batted an eye—in the most progressive and social justice-conscious religious community on a very liberal campus.

The speed of this change means that a lot of people are still catching up to the understandings of gender and how it differs from sex and biology. But it also means that even for well-meaning older folks, there are different obstacles that are hard to eradicate in quick order.

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On Capitalizing “Black” and “White” When Talking about Race

The words black and white negatively superimposed over an alternate diagonal background of white and black

Questions of racial justice and equity have occupied—as they should—a large role in our national discourse of late. A long-overdue examination of the embedded biases and structural inequities in our society is taking place. Among the many such examinations is the exploration of how our use of language supports or reinforces racial inequity. In one particular instance, writers have wondered whether it is appropriate to capitalize the terms black and white when they refer to race.

Interestingly, there does not appear to be a consensus on whether to capitalize the terms, so we’ll take a look at the different positions and see if we can come to any conclusions.

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On Being Original

dictionary entries for original and originality

For centuries old was better. Old meant tried-and-true, reliable, dependable.

This was especially true in the ancient world. The Romans gave a pass to Jewish religious observances because they were ancient and venerable; the Christians, on the other hand, were some kind of crazy newfangled cult that needed to be suppressed.

But today, no one wants to be a rehash of what has long been; everyone wants to be an original, to say something new and fresh. Now, part of that is because manufacturers and advertisers figured out that they could get more money from you by hyping the “new and improved” version of the thing that worked just fine as it was.

But another part of that is the understandable desire to leave a mark, to make a unique difference—to say I was here. And for that, unoriginality won’t do.

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Acknowledging the Land

Map showing the locations of American Indian tribes in the Upper Hudson River Valley

With this post, I’m taking a break from our regular posts with grammar, writing, and language tips. Today, I’m reflecting on the wonderful locations where Schaefer Wordsmithing has a physical presence—Troy, New York, and Washington, DC—and on the peoples who made this land a home long ago.

Both Troy and Washington are located on historic tidal estuary rivers—the Hudson and Potomac, respectively—and are parts of regions with a long and storied history. There is much to celebrate today in each region, and Schaefer Wordsmithing is lucky to call those regions “home.”

But as November is Native American Heritage Month, I thought it appropriate to take a break from the usual writing tips to reflect on the native peoples who used to call these homes their homes.

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