Artificial Intelligence is seeping into every field. From driverless cars to digital assistants, it seems like it’s going to play a huge role in shaping our future.
Large-language-model-based chatbots, such as ChatGPT, are one area of AI that has become increasingly popular and debated. Automating the writing process presents several ethical concerns. For example, the generation and spreading of misinformation, copyright infringement, unintended bias, and so on. Read our article on ChatGPT to see more discussion around this.
AI editing and proofreading tools also have some of the same drawbacks. As with anything AI-related, they have the potential to be beneficial or detrimental, depending on how they’re used.
Here, we’ll look at how AI proofreading works and the benefits and risks of using such tools.
How do AI editing tools work?
Human languages have many facets to them beyond sentences, words, and punctuation. Tone, metaphors, idioms, irony—there are myriad tools we use to express ourselves in speech and writing.
Getting a computer to pick up on all of these nuances the way a human could, until very recently, seemed impossible. With the rapid development of machine learning, however, came huge advances in this area.
Modern AI editing tools use natural language processing—the application of computational linguistics (rule-based language modelling) and machine learning models to enable computers to process and synthesise human language.
Using vast databases containing information on grammatical rules and multitudes of different texts to analyse patterns, these tools break up your work into small components—sentences and words—and compare these constructions against the contents of the databases. They can then identify errors and suggest changes based on the discrepancies.
Though not technically understanding what you’ve written, AI editing software can make sophisticated changes and suggestions based on learned patterns from the database of texts it’s analysed.
Benefits of AI editing tools
Using AI to proofread your work is a very attractive concept, with several advantages over human editors.
Using AI editing tools enables you to find potential errors in your work within seconds. Unlike humans, they can process a vast quantity of information quickly, freeing up your time to work on other issues.
They can correct grammatical errors, typos, and punctuation errors, as well as certain stylistic issues. These are common errors that take a person significantly longer to sift through and tidy up.
Because they follow an algorithm, AI editing tools also ensure consistency throughout a paper. Whereas humans aren’t guaranteed to spot every mistake they come across, computers pick up on almost everything they’re programmed to identify.
This is especially beneficial for large papers, or papers with multiple authors, where there may be many inconsistencies hidden in the text.
AI editing tools are also relatively cheap. Most are subscription-based, giving authors a lot of time to use them on as many projects as they want. This cuts costs and can boost productivity by allowing authors to focus on other tasks.
Disadvantages of AI editing tools
Despite these appealing prospects, using AI alone to edit your paper can lead to several problems.
Ultimately, proofreading tools cannot actually interpret your work. Writers establish their voices by showing off their creativity and flair; one sentiment can be expressed in many different ways. Right and wrong isn’t always so clear-cut in the English language. Many authors choose to break or bend certain ‘hard’ rules to suit their work.
Whereas a human will be able to comprehend what it is you’re saying, and how you’re deviating from the norm to express your idea, a computer is focused solely on rules and patterns within previous works, so originality and creativity may not be preserved.
Though achieving fast results, most authors opt to review all the changes that AI makes to their work. This is because it’s never absolutely certain that the software does its job perfectly. AI editing tools can misinterpret information and make unnecessary changes, introducing errors into authors’ work.
It is also necessary for a human to identify any changes that can devalue the work but aren’t necessarily incorrect. For example, the software may not choose the most accurate synonym for a word or phrase, especially if it’s a technical term, and it is not focused on the flow of the text, so doesn’t correct for issues with, say, tautology, or make sophisticated changes based on knowledge from your field.
Depth of editing
The most popular AI editing tools also cannot make many changes that a human editor could. It would require you to programme the software yourself to get it to, say, follow institutional style guides, which often feature very specific language and punctuation rules. They are less able to spot various subtle and nuanced ethical issues with arguments or terminology, which increases the risk of something damaging being published. And also, the fact that they make structural changes based on learned patterns limits their capability to comment on the overall organisation of your work compared to a human, who can assess it on its own merits.
Essentially, they can be used for basic editing, but do not provide an in-depth assessment of your work.
Which is the best option?
The effectiveness of AI editing software depends on how it is used and what it is used for. It certainly helps to streamline the editing process and can be used in conjunction with professional editors to improve your work. However, AI can’t be relied on entirely by itself.
To summarise, if you have a short piece of work that just needs to be checked for any glaring errors but isn’t particularly detailed, then AI editing tools could suffice. If, however, you have a 10,000-word academic paper on a complicated topic, then you’re likely going to need a human to go through and assess your work for its structure, language choice, and coherence.
This is because human editors aren’t assessing it purely on the basis of previous writings. They aren’t limited to learned patterns and constructions, and can give more tailored advice to improve your work.
If you don’t want to trust the editing of your article, thesis, or dissertation to AI, then MDPI Author Services has a team of highly skilled human editors on hand to get your paper publication-ready.
Services offered to all authors, whether you intend to publish with MDPI or not. To help ensure a fast and straightforward publication journey, our Rapid Service provides authors with a comprehensive language edit within 1 business day, allowing you to meet your deadlines.