Beyond Spellcheck: AI for Editors

by Emily Faubert

As a writer and editor with a focus on social justice, I do my best to stay on top of new technologies that have the potential to disrupt and transform communication industries. The recent expansion of Artificial Intelligence (AI) is intensifying calls for a universal basic income as jobs change and, in some cases, disappear. With the rollout of ChatGPTDALL-E, and other AI tools, content creators are seeing jobs disappear, and freelancers are seeing a rise in job postings to work with AI output instead of human writing. (AI tools can create content at a faster rate and lower cost than people, so for companies looking to cut costs, AI tools may be an option.) Despite these changes, the need for human editors has not diminished. Instead, it has evolved in response to the limitations of AI learning. In this blog post, we will delve into the impact of AI on the communications industry and explore tools that can assist with writing and editing, as well as look at the limitations that prevent them from replacing human editors.

Mechanical "person" (robot) sits on a bench and reads a book.
Photo by Andrea De Santis on Unsplash

Benefits of working with AI

AI editing tools have been commonplace for years, from basic spellcheckers to more advanced tools like Grammarly and QuillBot, which can help identify and reword awkward sentences. These tools offer editors a way to free up mental space for high-level tasks, such as improving organization or adding transitions. They can also strengthen quality control by quickly finding possible errors and inconsistencies. However, these tools are not a replacement for human editors, as they sometimes offer suggestions that make sentences wordy, confusing, or just plain incorrect. 

In addition to quality control and error detection, AI can speed up certain processes by acting as a professional colleague, helping to brainstorm ideas, offering alternative phrasing, and pointing out gaps where further research is needed. 

Limitations and the need for human editors

AI tools are only as good as their input and programming. These tools mirror the culture they are created in and have been found to produce racist, sexist, and hateful information, highlighting the need for critical consciousness when using them. 

Editing is a collaborative process that involves understanding a creator’s intentions and applying one’s knowledge of grammar, writing style, and the author’s voice to help them best communicate their message. Like human creators, human editors bring unique perspectives and skills to the editing process, including empathy, intuition, and critical thinking. Our human touch provides personalization and quality control that AI cannot achieve alone.

Meet your new coworkers

While AI has changed the role of editors, it’s also created new tools for us to use and the opportunity to transform how we work. On that note, I’d like to share with you some new (and old) AI tools that may prove helpful despite their limitations.

  • Inspiration and research tools
    • Research is my favourite application of AI; you can ask ChatGPT for prominent theorists in a field or to identify hard-to-find resources. However, it’s important to double-check this information, as ChatGPT has been found to “hallucinate,” where it confidently spouts misinformation. My favourite AI research tool is Elicit, which can help you brainstorm a question and provide top journal articles and books for your question as ranked by citations. 
    • Merlin is an AI plug-in that can assist with emails, answer questions, and help write detailed prompts for other tools like ChatGPT and DALL-E. Since tools like ChatGPT will change their output based on your input, a slight change in wording can create an entirely different answer. Having clear and specific prompts ensures you will receive the most relevant results. 
  • Text writers/generators
    • This is where it gets dicey. AI writers like, ChatGPT, and Jasper can produce work that reads as nearly human. When coupled with rewriting tools such as Rewriter AI and Copymatic—which can take AI output and rewrite it into natural-reading sentences—these tools pose new challenges for educational spaces and will require assignments to be redesigned to require skill sets that AI cannot replicate. While there are problematic uses for these tools, they can also help overcome creative blocks, as they require users to craft specific and organized prompts, which may help them get into a focused state. 
  • Editing tools
    • Grammarly, QuillBot, and ProWritingAid are AI copy editors that combine grammar rules and spell checkers. More comprehensive tools like Authors A.I. can provide extensive analysis of longer writing, including developmental feedback on novels. Of course, while these tools help editors save time, they are also imperfect and can offer incorrect suggestions. As with all AI tools, be sure to stir in your critical thinking and creativity to make the necessary improvements.

Conclusion: Making AI work for you

So many new tools are rolling out each week, and economic pressures, especially in creative fields, compel us to stay on top of new tech trends to avoid being left behind or replaced. But, there’s no need to try them all—find the ones that solve a problem for you and use them in the ways that best suit your work. For example, Grammarly offers plug-ins for browsers, and I love having the assistance when I’m writing emails. However, I have it blocked from Scrivener and other word processors because I find it distracting while writing; I only re-enable it when I move to the editing process. 

AI provides new tools and possibilities for editors, as well as a host of limitations that are important to be aware of. Humans and machines have different skills, and while AI thrives at quick, repetitive tasks, there will always be a need for us human editors, who bring a unique perspective and personal touch to the editing process.

Emily Faubert (she/they) is a writer, editor, and graduate student studying social justice at Lakehead University.

This article was copy edited by Erin Della Mattia, a freelance editor specializing in books for young readers. She lives in Brampton, Ontario, with two dogs, five cats, and an ever-expanding TBR pile.

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