A version of this story appeared in Total Annarchy, my fortnightly newsletter that helps you be a better writer, storyteller, marketer. Get it in your inbox; you’ll love it.
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One of the things I love about the explosive chatter around AI writing is how overnight the conversation shifted from this:
Yo! No One Reads. Writing Doesn’t Matter Anymore!
Writing Is the Most Important Thing We Do! Writing Matters! Dukes Up! I Will Fight You If You Disagree!
Long ago I pitched a party tent and hired the band in that Writing Matters camp. Feel the thump-thump-thump of the bass? See that blur out there…? That’s me going HAM on the dance floor…!
Now there are lots of new faces popping into the party tent! People aren’t here just for the free margaritas. They’re also here because… yep: Words. Matter.
Whether you believe AI is a game-changer or not… I love how everyone is all-in on words and writing.
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Yet writing is work.
And that’s also fueling the frenzy around AI Writing.
A lot of us are looking for a way to shortcut the process, because we think AI is like a microwave that’ll heat our Hickory Ham Hot Pocket in a jiffy.
Look! 10 seconds on HIGH and I have an entire blog post!
But it’s not like that.
Because our content isn’t extruded and rolled and mass-produced. Or it shouldn’t be.
And because that’s not how we should use AI.
AI is a tool. Maybe we use it to brainstorm. Or refine. Or edit. Or reimagine a blog post as a social post. That kind of thing.
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Part of me hates that bold text above—that “writing is work” business.
Because writing is also fun! It’s play!
Or it can be.
We don’t spend enough time talking about the sheer delight of creating things we love—things that we co-create with our brains, our hearts, our hands, our whole selves. Things that let us wallow in words and just… play.
That’s what robots can’t do. No matter how good the output* eventually might be.
(*Side note: Writing as “output.” Gross. I just threw up in my mouth a little.)
So let’s play! Six thoughts!
1. CREATE METAPHORS AS AN INSIDER WINK. Use your words to paint pictures in the context of your audience. Reflect their experiences. Use their language. Help them be seen. And delight your reader… insider to insider.
Example: Aha Media Group is a marketing agency that serves (in part) healthcare clients. Behold this insider wink in an email it sent promoting a webinar to its community of healthcare marketers:
“We’ll show you how to move away from social media platforms that are draining your budget like a vampire in an OR.”
Budget. Vampire. Blood. OR. The email doesn’t even bother to spell out “Operating Rooms.” Hospital marketers sprinkle acronyms on their morning oatmeal.
2. GO HARD TO TEASE OUT a theme.
Example: In a direct response email selling winter cocktails, online liquor retailer Drizly writes:
“These drinks are so winter-ready, they might as well have chains on their tires. Go ahead and get ’em delivered right to your blanket fort.”
Hunkering down in a blanket fort in the January brrr. Fun!
3. GIVE YOUR READER A CAMEO. Right there on the page, cast your reader in a speaking role. Say out loud what’s inside their head.
Example: Writing about two healthcare systems consolidating, Blake Madden voices what his been-around-the-block healthcare industry reader is thinking:
“Now, I know what you’re thinking—’but hospital consolidation…not again! This is just another way for hospitals to merge without merging.’ And yes, that is a legitimate concern anytime two huge systems announce anything substantial.”
4. ADD A SECOND SENSE. Show how something feels, tastes, smells, sounds… in addition to how it looks or what it is. Tap at least two senses.
I talk about this a lot. We don’t use it enough.
Example: Morning Brew taps this technique in an ad—an ad!—for Mugsy jeans:
“If [thighs] could talk, they’d be telling you how Mugsy jeans are the softest, comfiest jeans a set of thighs has ever called home.
“And if they could shout, these thighs would be screamin’ about the incredible stretch Mugsy jeans deliver, keeping the fit juuust right—never too baggy and never too tight.”
Talking thighs. Shouting thighs! That word just with three Us in the middle.
You can feel AND hear AND see those comfy jeans giving your thighs plenty of space.
5. LET WORD CHOICE = STYLE.
I do this a lot; it’s kind of my thing. I toss an archaic or old-timey or unnecessarily long word like a hand grenade in the middle of a sentence. Harbinger. Nincompoop. Shenanigans. That Jiffy in the Hot Pocket reference above.
Why? They’re a little weird. We rarely use them in speaking. So they stand out. It’s a stylistic choice I make. Do you make stylistic choices, too?
Example: Cubitts is a British eyeglasses retailer with a keen sense of style and service. From its About Us page:
“Our industry has become staid and uninspiring, characterised by badly made and fitted frames, confusing and overcomplicated processes, clinical and unfriendly environments, aggressive sales patter, and excessive wastage.”
“Tools to keep your spectacles in fine fettle.”
Sales patter. Wastage. Fettle. Cubitts’ fussy and precise word choice perfectly mirrors the fussy and precise approach of Cubitts itself.
6. READ IT OUT LOUD. I will never stop nagging us to do this.
It’s the difference between sounding like you… and sounding like an AI tool just spit out 100 Facebook ads for Hickory Ham Hot Pockets.