ChatGPT. Jasper. AI. You’ve heard about them, and maybe you’ve even tried using them. What you’re wondering now is “Will AI replace copyeditors and proofreaders?” It’s a “mostly no” kind of answer.
A lot of it has to do with how good of a copyeditor you are and the quality of the company or client you’re working with. Keep in mind that tools like Grammarly have been around for years and they haven’t replaced copyeditors and proofreaders yet either. So let’s see the top reasons why AI won’t take away your copyediting job.
1. AI Isn’t Always Accurate But Copyeditors Should Be
Did you know that when Bard first came out, it caused an embarrassing scandal for Google? It claimed the James Webb Space Telescope took the first image of a planet outside of our solar system. The truth is that NASA took the first image almost 14 years earlier!
And that’s not the only story of AI getting facts wrong—or doubling down on its false claims. An attorney in Utah used ChatGPT to help file a brief, but it cited at least six cases that were entirely fake. And when pressed, it kept saying they were real!
So. If you’re a competent copyeditor who knows part of your important job is to fact check, you won’t lose your job to AI. Companies that don’t care about quality will prioritize free AI help over paying for a copyeditor. They aren’t worth your time anyway, so move on to a better company that values you.
2. People Use Grammarly and Other Writing Tools Already
The rise of Grammarly made a lot of proofreaders and copyeditors panic. It seemed like the most amazing, easy, free tool to replace any human who could check for spelling errors.
While it’s a great tool for a lot of uses like emails and simple business or academic projects, we know Grammarly still isn’t the most accurate tool—especially for fiction writing. It just can’t understand nuance and context.
Worse still, Grammarly is known to introduce errors more frequently than they like to admit. For instance, it often mistakes common homophones in a sentence (break/brake or by/buy/bye). And it can suggest words that really don’t suit your meaning.
There are plenty of writers (and even copyeditors) who use Grammarly, WordTune, or Outwrite to do quick checks for things they might have missed, but they never ever rely on it. The same will be true for AI language models as we move out of the current frenzied fad.
ChatGPT, Jasper, Bing, and Bard (just to name a few) will be helpful for some tasks, but at the end of the day, quality still lies with human copyeditors.
3. Most Companies Use AI Software as Tools Not Solutions
Tools can solve problems, but they aren’t always solutions. AI tools for writing fall under this concept. While there are definitely some great tools like Bing Chat, ChatGPT, Surfer AI, Write Sonic, and Jasper, companies, authors, and editors have found that they aren’t 100 percent better than a human.
Brooklin Nash, owner of Beam Content, tested this theory. He gave the same prompt to an AI tool, a writer in a content mill (low quality, high production), and one of his top-notch industry writers. See if you can identify who wrote which of these three responses to this prompt: How to leverage your internal SMEs for better content.
Hopefully the answer is pretty obvious. There’s a distinct difference in quality of all three responses. (Yes, we’re talking about writing vs editing or proofreading, but it’s the same principle.)
So, #1 was the content mill, #2 was AI, and #3 was his writer. There’s so much more emotion and context in the last response! It’s a great writer who knows how to wield imagery and grammar to make an impression.
And that is why excellent, professional copyeditors don’t have to worry about losing their job to AI or ChatGPT. Sure it will catch problems with punctuation or misspellings, but copyeditors know how to improve a sentence’s meaning through grammar. And that requires using a brain that can detect nuance and context.
In a world where grammar seems 2 b lost and shortened IRL, (ugh) there are still thousands of companies that prioritize high-quality content edited by humans. And there are thousands of authors who still want a trusted pair of eyes to help prevent unhappy reviews on Amazon.
4. Copyeditors & Proofreaders (aka Humans) Understand Context Better Than AI
English is hard. If you’ve ever tried to learn another language, you have sympathy for people who learn English as a second language. Well, generative AI language models are kind of like ESL learners.
There are “inside jokes” to the way we speak that artificial intelligence just can’t understand. And we’re not even talking about slang, which is a whole other level.
AI language models like ChatGPT and Bing Chat have a hard time understanding sarcasm, tone of voice, or colloquialisms. Let’s break this down even more.
Sarcasm can’t be taken at face value and AI is driven by linear “thinking.” If you’re unimpressed about the quality of a product and you say, “They’re the best donuts I’ve ever eaten” then ChatGPT will operate as if that’s a true statement and mess up the overall message. Fail.
Tone of Voice
When it comes to tone of voice, AI also falls short. A human copyeditor reads a draft for a science fiction book and knows how a specific character speaks and acts. They’ll use that knowledge to keep all dialogue in line so that readers don’t get confused. AI can’t do that. It operates on linear grammatical rules that don’t account for a tone of voice.
Colloquialisms are a fun one that AI also can’t handle well. “I’m feeling blue” or “Git ‘er done” or “over yonder” are all examples of phrases that have another meaning or use. Even the difference of “flat” vs “apartment” is a colloquialism that AI might “correct” accidentally. As copyeditors, you’ll have a stronger grasp of these kinds of colloquialisms or you can quickly search for an answer to verify the answer.
Ultimately, humans will always win the game of nuance and context against AI language models, which is why AI won’t take away your copyediting job. And when you read a blog or social media post that just sounds a little off, you’ll know it could have been written or edited by AI.
5. Google Still Wants Authority Content Updated by Humans Not AI
To be clear, Google is not against AI content (it created Bard), but it prioritizes authentic and original content no matter how it’s produced. Essentially, that leaves the door open for using AI language models like Bard or ChatGPT—just not without human refinement.
For copyeditors who work with online companies or bloggers, this is essential to understand. It’s part of Google’s EEAT principle for ranking well in organic search: Experience, Expertise, Authoritativeness, and Trust.
While AI tools can be excellent for ideation and initial creation, there’s just no comparing the quality of the human touch after AI. Writing and editing is what makes the difference between good content and great content.
So, if you’re a copyeditor working in digital publishing at a reputable company that cares about quality, Google’s opinion here matters. So mention it to your boss. It’s a great way to ensure your editing skills remain essential for helping articles rank well on Google and other search engines.
6. AI Isn’t Great at Working Within Style Guides
Any writer, editor, or proofreader worth their salt knows what a style guide is. It’s the grammar bible for a project and it varies based on the client. While artificial language models like ChatGPT could cite a reference from CMOS (Chicago Manual of Style), it won’t be able to apply a customized style guide consistently.
The chances are good that the company you work for will have a general style guide that they follow, but they include a few variations of rules to suit their preference. Maybe they like a closed em dash or spelling out numerals up to 50.
AI won’t be able to work within those guidelines. That means any company or client who strongly believes in high-quality editing will prefer having copyeditors and proofreaders on their payroll. If you do that, you won’t have to wonder if AI will take away your copyediting job.