Would You Want to Know if I Thought Your Writing Sounded Like AI

This Week In Writing, we talk about submissions to The Writing Cooperative and how to avoid false accusations.

Would You Want to Know if I Thought Your Writing Sounded Like AI
Photo by Joakim Honkasalo / Unsplash

Technically, any submission to The Writing Cooperative that uses generative AI in any capacity is supposed to be disclosed. That detail is spelled out in our rules. In reality? No one pays attention.

It's not a surprise since roughly 60% of submissions ignore the rules completely and are rejected as a result. While the lack of detail bugs me (and completely wastes my time), I ultimately can't fault people for wanting to share their work with the world. The problem is that, increasingly, I'm starting to wonder if it actually is their work.

Like a bad poker game, AI-generated articles have some noticeable tells. I won't share them here because, at some point, I imagine the tells will be more difficult to identify. But, for now, I have a pretty good suspicion when I'm "reading" an AI-generated article. Oh, and it's not just me, by the way. Any editor worth their salt knows what these tells are. Trust me, we talk.

When I get one of these submissions, I usually a generic "rejection" message. Though, I'm wondering if I should start calling people out. Not in public, of course, but in the notes. Something along the lines of, "This piece feels like it was created by generative AI and isn't a fit for the publication."

The problem with this approach is that if the submission wasn't generated by AI, the writer would be mortified. I know I would be. Plus, if the article was, then the "author" would be onto me and likely adjust their future submissions. (Maybe I'm overthinking that last part.)

However, the other side of my brain says it could be a teaching moment. The first time an editor ripped something I wrote to shreds, I was devastated. Then, after some choice words for the person, I realized they were right on most accounts. Their suggestions and highlights helped make me a better writer. Maybe being told your writing resembles something emotionless that feels created by a robot might have the same response. I don't know.

Here's the thing: submitting something written by generative AI is just a waste of everyone's time. If you want to use gen-AI to help edit your work, fine. But, hitting a button to create some piece of "content" that you pass off as your own to what, earn a few pennies on Medium? No thanks.

This post on Mastodon hits the nail on the head:

Just seen a new favourite response to AI text. "Why should I bother to read something nobody could be bothered to write?"

Put yourself in my position: what would you do? Would you call out writers and tell them their submission is being rejected because it resembles gen-AI? How would you feel if I rejected your submission because it felt like a robot wrote it?

Hit reply and let me know. I'm really curious.

Speaking of Submissions...

My home renovation is complete, and I'm mostly unpacked. My office is a mess since it's the final dumping ground that I haven't had the energy to finish, but almost everything else is done. It's lovely, and I'm very happy. This matters because I should be back on my regular weekly submission review process again.

I aim to review stories once a week on the weekend. During the renovation process, those windows slipped. A lot. We should be fully back on schedule. Now, if you'll excuse me, I have some more stuff to do in my office.

One More Thing...

This issue is only being sent out through my website. Originally, I planned to have a monthly exclusive on my website while I figured out a transition plan. But, thanks to some techno-wizardry and the help of an awesome reader, I already figured out that transition plan. Executing the plan will probably still take a few weeks, but I will soon be sending the newsletter exclusively through my website.

I share this to say one thing: thank you for being among the first to sign up here and for being interested in my writing. As I said a few weeks ago, I write to connect with you. It means a lot to me that you subscribe, that you read, and that you engage with what I have to say. So, thank you for being here. Truly.

Justin Cox Justin Cox

Justin Cox is a donut-loving, word-writing, nonprofit consultant based in Orlando. He also runs The Writing Cooperative on Medium. Come say hello!